Recently, the New York Times travel section published a piece on libraries as tourist attractions replete with gorgeous photos. How exciting to see phenomenal libraries from places as diverse as Doha, Texas, China and Scandinavia celebrated. Author Alyson Krueger looked at the beautiful designs, the interesting offerings, dollars spent and number of visitors welcome, leaving no doubt these magnificent buildings are worthy of tourists’ time and interest. This latest piece joins similar articles written in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and The Atlantic over the past couple of years. Clearly libraries are experiencing a renaissance and people are taking notice.
The implications of so many cities all over the world investing in libraries today are numerous. What is driving this high level of investment in this type of public infrastructure? What are the values held in common by a society that chooses to invest so significantly in libraries? What are libraries delivering to their communities that makes them so attractive and worthy of all these column inches of journalism real-estate? Support for productivity, nurturing creativity, experiential learning and of course great collections of books are just some that the recent New York Times article pointed out.
Looking deeper and beyond the beautiful images, libraries operate as community anchors, constructing social capital. I think a lot about the role of libraries in communities to serve as platforms for communal learning and how this mission has transcended the millennia and the evolution of technologies, from papyrus scroll to digital download.
In fact, the foremost feature of a great library is its connection to its community. This means that each library’s evolutionary trajectory will increasingly reflect the needs of the constituency it serves. By extension, libraries will move further from the templated form and function of the early 20th century and expand to provide resources that advance collective goals. Here in New Canaan that includes supporting the tens of non-profit organizations that work to make this town the exceptional place that we choose to call home by providing meeting spaces, collaborating on projects and working together on programs.
Equally important is the facilitation of knowledge creation. Our focus on our community guides us here too. Understanding the universally high level of education as well as the very high value parents place on their children’s learning and literacy means that we strategically direct our resources to developing and delivering best in class learning opportunities for every age. This includes the early literacy curriculum that starts with infants in our children’s room, the STEAM curriculum delivered by our technology educator in our MakerLab and the high quality adult lectures, classes and workshops. New Canaan Library’s talented team works to facilitate the creation of knowledge each day. We constantly strive to better know our members and to understand their learning interests so that our rich collections of print and digital materials and our hundreds of learning programs reflect and support their interests.
This focus on community and dedication to serving its needs is what attracts visitors through our doors. Once here, they not only feed their imaginations and pursue their learning passions but more importantly connect with neighbors, interacting together and creating the bonds that strengthen our town. It is a privilege to work at the intersection of community and learning and to ensure that New Canaan Library is the strongest possible platform for supporting the diverse learning and cultural aspirations of the community through our people, our collections, programs and spaces.