A new strategy that focuses on your contribution to the development of a smart community may entail changes in your building and physical infrastructure. Indeed, changing the role of your public library may result in a shift from solely space planning for collections, equipment, and associated physical infrastructure to a stronger focus on design for people, community outcomes, experience, and innovation.
Thinking about the design of your library building is therefore key. Openness, diversity, interaction with the local government, adaptability, and open access may become some of your new values. Having an adaptable and open building will help you communicate with them.
To start with, the location of your library is still important and plays a role in making your library more accessible and attractive to local residents. You may also want to invest in much more flexible spaces that may be used for many different purposes by many different kinds of people at different times or even at the same time.
Makerspaces and production studios, for example, require big spaces because they require equipment that does not fit in small spaces and rooms. Depending on your strategy and related programs and services, you may want to think about additional specific spaces: a marketplace, meeting rooms, lifelong learning spaces, technology rooms, exhibition spaces, theater rooms, dedicated spaces for partners (local government, nonprofits, etc.).
But be bold! Library users interviewed by researchers from the International Network of Emerging Library Innovators provided very insightful ideas: “a free place to work and meet people in a relaxed atmosphere; like a cozy living room but in the center of the city”; “a room for meditation; a sound proof space with soothing colors”; “an art workshop where one can write and bind one’s own book”; a speakers’ corner”; “a cushioned reading room, where tea is served”. When thinking about your building and its spaces, remember it needs to mirror your overall vision, goals, and values, and make the community aware of your distinctive role in the development of a smart city/community.
You may want to think about your technology assets, particularly if you have decided to offer programs and services that aim to bridge the digital divide and develop smart citizens by providing access to technology as well as to digital literacy programs. You may need to identify the technology equipment you will need. It can range from computers and printers to 3D printers and other digital fabrication tools. Your goals and action plans will help you make that decision.
Probably you will want to provide free high-speed access to the Internet in your library to attract local residents to your facilities, which will raise awareness among the community about what you have to offer, exposing residents to several programs and services they may otherwise have not interacted with.
You may also want to provide 24/7 online access to your library’s resources so that the library can become a critical hub to support the community and to allow local residents to communicate and interact even when the building is closed. All of these technology assets may require the purchase of new equipment, which may be expensive. You may want to schedule your investments over time as well as to plan for periodical update/maintenance operations.
Finally, your decisions about infrastructure may also include investments in mobile facilities that may help you bring your programs and services to those residents who may not be able to visit your library building. Providing mobile access to your programs and services supports technology accessibility, community participation, and innovation in the development of a smart city/community.
Through a mobile center or bus, for example, you may provide access to computers and the Internet to residents of neighborhoods which are not well connected to your library. Further, it may also allow you to offer programs focused on the use of technology with a purpose, which is a key element in the development of smart citizens (e.g., job preparation, workforce development training, telehealth, and enrichment programs). Inclusion is an essential component of smart cities and communities, and you may contribute to it.
General resources on infrastructure:
Model Programme for Public Libraries: https://modelprogrammer.slks.dk/en/
6 Tips to Improve the User Experience in Your Library: https://ideas.demco.com/blog/6-tips-to-improve-library-user-experience/
What Will Become of the Library? How it will evolve as the world goes digital: https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/04/the-future-of-the-library-how-theyll-evolve-for-the-digital-age.html