Introduction to the Aspen Institute
Across the country communities are using their public libraries in unique and exciting ways. From Makerspaces and robots to Farmers’ Markets , libraries are transforming to meet the changing needs of their communities and continuing to serve as the center of learning and knowledge creation.
The Aspen Institute describes a “new world of knowledge”, with the public library serving as a “vital learning institution and engine for individual, community, and civil society development.” While each of our communities will approach this new era differently, there are common benchmarks that can be utilized to ensure that the public library remains “the essential civil society space where this new America will make its democratic character.”
Technology must become a core competency for libraries, not simply a service offered to patrons. Using yesterday’s tools to meet patrons and community needs is an antiquated model; today’s libraries must anticipate the future needs of clients and community, and innovation is the GPS. Technology is only one part of the equation; technology must be joined by new thinking on the development of human capital in the community and in the library.
The organizational culture of libraries (as is true for most companies and movements) enables true innovation to occur only on the edge of the organization where staffs are less encumbered by expectations of maintaining prescribed pathways. The challenge for libraries is to shatter the organizational paradigm and create new ecosystems that permeate the organization and invite and nurture innovation.