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Libraries in Transition

The innovate new Library Learning TerraceThe innovate new Library Learning Terrace

The following is in excerpt provided to attendees of the 2011 Future Search Conference.

The increasing role of technology and electronically accessible materials has caused many to question the role of the traditional library. With stacks of books, desks and chairs, held within a single physical space, the traditional library offers a place for individuals to quietly read and process information.

Libraries, however, are no longer simply places to house books and offer quiet spaces to read, they are vibrant centers for learning where individuals can exercise their minds to build new knowledge from the information they discover. Libraries exist within the walls of buildings and online. They organize efficient and convenient access to information through managing shared use of books and journals as well as through licensing electronic resources. Libraries capture and preserve human memory and foster creation of new knowledge. In the academy, they are discipline neutral and supportive of all fields of inquiry, ether as learning coaches for the novice student or as a partner to scholars and teachers to strengthen research, instruction and scholarly communications.

As more and more users choose immediately accessible digitized content over traditional printed materials, the future of brick-and-mortar libraries will continue to change to become less about what products a patron obtains at a library and more about the experiences the patron has while visiting. The focus of these libraries will be to provide social spaces where students can work together to derive meaning from their online and classroom experiences1.

At Drexel, the academy has been undergoing a fundamental transformation from a historically purposeful institute of technology education and is emerging as a comprehensive research institution, grounded in a tradition of experiential learning and an ambition for leading civic engagement in a global environment. Its neglected libraries are being reconceived as a learning enterprise with embedded environments around campus and through the Internet, and as an active educational program for assisting learners to develop information literacy skills and researchers in their pursuit of knowledge.

Those interested in a broader perspective might wish to read a recent publication from the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy. Checking Out the Future: Perspectives from the Library Community on Information Technology and 21st-Century Libraries explores how many library professionals are recognizing the need to evolve during the digital revolution and are driving adaptations designed to ensure that libraries remain an integral part of our society’s commitment to education, equity, and access to information. Authored by Jennifer C. Hendrix, OITP Consultant, Checking Out the Future, is based on a literature review conducted in 2008-2009 on the future of libraries, primarily of publications from within the library community. (Online at:

Article by: Jenny James Lee and Danuta A. Nitecki. Photo by Jenny James Lee.

1. Hendrix, Jennifer C. Checking out the Future: Perspectives from the Library Community on Information Technology and 21st-Century Libraries. American Libraries Association. Washington, D.C. 2 February 2010. Print.

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