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More incredibly cool things to do in the library of the future

Everything from drones to virtual reality to artificial intelligence


(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

With digital comes an exponential increase in the number of ways we can access, manipulate, search, parse, combine, manage and store each of the growing number of elements in the knowledge universe.

As a result, our expectations surrounding libraries and the activities and capabilities we expect from a local neighborhood information center, are also beginning to change.

Stepping through this list of possible activities, we should begin with the understanding that very few libraries, if any, will have all of them.

Libraries are rapidly transitioning from a place for passive visitors who consume information to active participants who would much rather produce it.

Maker Space - Areas to include:

  1. Potters wheel and workshop for mixing the mud and making pottery.
  2. Growing vegetables using aquaponics.
  3. Video studio for both shooting and editing a video.
  4. A production area for both recording and editing a virtual reality experience
  5. IoT workbenches complete with Internet of Things help desk
  6. Access to 3D scanners and printers capable of printing items out of several hundred different materials.
  7. Laser cutters for etching/cutting wood, glass, metal, and ceramic.
  8. Jewelry making stations

Creative Spaces – These types of spaces will come complete with all the tools, technologies, and supplies for creative people to get creative.

  1. Produce art
  2. Produce music
  3. Produce games
  4. Produce podcasts
  5. Produce webcasts
  6. Produce VR experiences
  7. Host IoT workshops
  8. Create & print with 3D printers

Mini theaters – It’s important for groups have a place to gather for such things as:

  1. Watching movies
  2. Playing video games
  3. Watch live events such as concerts, sporting events, NASA landings, etc.
  4. Watch YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and more

Live webcast studios – While we no longer need a studio for doing live webcasts, the age of the studio is far from over.

  1. Book reviews
  2. Game reviews
  3. App reviews
  4. Course review
  5. Chatbot review
  6. Tech reviews
  7. 50 years ago today
  8. “How to” accomplish something

3D Printing – As the process of additive manufacturing improves, it will begin to enter all of our lives in unusual ways:

  1. 3D printer lending
  2. 3D scanner lending
  3. 3D printer workshops
  4. 3D scanner workshops
  5. 3D design competitions
  6. 3D printer-scanner help desks


Flying Drones – In much the way kids that lived a century ago wanted to learn how to fly, young people today are enamored with flying and driving drones.

  1. Drone lending
  2. Flying drone flight simulators
  3. DYI drone workshops
  4. Drone competitions

Artificial Intelligence – Artificial intelligence is already in existence and already knows far more about you than any person alive today. Will future libraries offer:

  1. AI lending
  2. AI workshops
  3. AI competitions
  4. Monitor and anticipate visitor usage


Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality – Both will become far more pervasive in the future.

  1. VR & AR hardware lending
  2. VR & AR software lending
  3. VR & AR production studios
  4. VR & AR search engines

Robotics – Robots will become far more common in the future.

  1. Robot lending
  2. Robot rodeos
  3. Robot workshops
  4. Robot competitions


Internet of Things – As more of our devices join the connected world we will see an increase in demand for:

  1. IoT device lending
  2. IoT prototyping workshops
  3. IoT competitions
  4. IoT expert speaker sessions

Equipment Archive – Most people have old forms of information on disks, cartridges, stick drves, and tapes, and many are looking for a place to convert it to a new medium that people today can access.

  1. Read and print microfiche
  2. Both read and convert 8”, 5.25”, and 3.5” disks to the cloud
  3. Convert photos to video
  4. Convert from VHS to DVD
  5. Digitize and repair old photos and documents
  6. Old gaming consoles to play programs and games on cartridges, apps, stick drives, and CDs

Global Library Projects

  1. VR chat rooms with people in other counties
  2. Cross cultural lending programs (i.e. books written in Japanese, not translated, about Ben Franklin)


Video and Non-Video Games - Games are quickly becoming the cultural norm for most young people today.

  1. Game tournaments
  2. Game lending
  3. Game builder workshops
  4. Game expert events

New Facilities – Most major libraries will be testing out a host of new options to make their facilities relevant for next generation users.

  1. Mini Planetariums
  2. Robotic storytelling centers
  3. VR dating stations
  4. Time capsule room
  5. Drone lending program
  6. Pet lending program
  7. Expert events – meet the experts
  8. Community archives – let the community decide


Final Thoughts

As a kid growing up, libraries were always that magical place full of ideas and possibilities. Future libraries will have all that and more.

Yes, they will be continually evolving over the coming decades and the key to our understanding them lies in our ability to expand our perspective and reframe our thinking abut their role and purpose.

The list above is merely scratching the surface. Libraries can start with a formula, mission statement, policy plan or lengthy surveys, but in the end libraries will evolve, morph and transform on their own even without human intervention.

It’ll be an exciting thing to watch and even more exciting to be part of.

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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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