The library of the future bridges societal divides

If your start thinking about a Fab City (or any city, really), what are some places you might walk into freely, meet a variety of people, and learn something? There aren’t all that many places like that, are there? Public libraries fit that description and a lot of the things people want to experience and learn about in terms of strengthened social fabric and projects leading to a locally active and globally connected are already happening in libraries.

Memphis’s Cossitt Library is going through an innovative transformation and is led in an inspiring fashion by its senior manager, Shamichael Hallman.

[T]he innovative transformation of the Memphis Public Libraries stages a library renaissance for the nation on how to empower people through a model based on social justice and democratic knowledge, acting as bridges for societal divides and platforms of sharing skills.

Over its 18 branches, Memphis Libraries run around 3,000 programs a year, “an impressive amount that Hallman attributes to the many people that have been working together over the years to bring a vision to fruition.”

Through countless classes, skillshares, and events offered in the realms of technology, library science, political science, tutoring, test-prep, tax help, community organizing, movie nights, music, technology and other skill-building, barriers are removed and doors are opened to invite people in.

It’s a transition not everyone is aware of, but it’s been ongoing in libraries around the world, evolving beyond a place to read, a place to borrow books, they are diversifying the kinds of information you can access regardless of the format, and in many cases helping citizens also access the diversity of information they can learn from neighbours and communities around them. At a time when too many people are isolated and kept apart from a diversity of other lived experiences, the library of the future can also bridge societal divides.

Through rotating events, exhibitions, opportunities, and the architecture itself, the library is removing barriers and opening doors instead. Indeed, the ways in which a simple library card, a free card of which anyone can be in possession of, opens a world to possibility and belonging. […] The transformation of this public library recognizes the need for affordable co-working spaces but its model of mutual aid and stewardship teaches us to not only care for what it contains and what it has the potential to be; but also to care for one another through the common good act of practicing care for a shared space.

Photo credit: Joyce Peterson. Light installation at Cossitt Public Library before its transformation