The Future of Libraries

Besides lending books, the local institutions are training young journalists, renting garden plots and more

(Brooklyn Public Library)

Libraries have been around for nearly 5,000 years, and sometimes it seems like they haven’t changed much since, at least in the public imagination. You know: hushed, slightly musty spaces smelling of old paper, presided over by the stereotypical ancient librarian.

But public libraries today are actually doing an enormous amount to meet 21st-century needs. A recent contest sponsored by the Knight Foundation awarded shares of a $1.6 million prize to 14 winners who came up with the best, most innovative ideas for helping libraries better serve their changing communities. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite ideas from the contest, along with several other cool ways libraries are changing with the times.

Using the library to make Wikipedia better

Wikipedia is one of the most-visited sites on the internet, and an incredibly common source of facts for everything from blog posts to term papers. But as we all know, crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia are not always correct. This Knight Foundation prize-winning project, from the Online Computer Library Center, aims to both make library resources available for Wikipedia editors in order to create better, more accurate entries, and to train librarians to become Wikipedia editors themselves. Because better sources mean better entries mean better term papers.


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