The theme for 2017 National Library Week is “Libraries Transform.” For any who has entered a library before, it is not hard to imagine how free access to both public space and information tools can make small, or sometimes large, impacts on lives. They are valued social spaces where people search the internet, prepare a resume, and connect with loved ones. The work libraries are doing abroad is having profound effects on people across the globe. TASCHA’s research on public libraries explores the role these institutions play in people’s lives and informs the development of new services, programs, technologies, and policies. The value, impact, and services provided by public libraries nurture the minds and well-being of community members, including those from marginalized groups, fostering engaged and informed communities that are important now more than ever.
At TASCHA, we believe there is another important reading of this phrase as well. The transformation is symbiotic, meaning libraries are transforming with their communities as much as they are transforming the lives of their patrons. Projects within TASCHA’s Future of Libraries research area depend on libraries to change and adapt to technologies and sociopolitical dynamics to redefine their evolving role in relation to the community’s needs. The Mobile Information Literacy project, for example, has utilized librarians as conduits for spreading an information literacy curriculum developed by the TASCHA team. Or the Development and Access to Information project, which examines how libraries help support the UN’s Sustainable Development goals by providing critical access to information for developing countries. Finally, the project MOOC usage for professional workforce development outcomes in Colombia, the Philippines, & South Africa emphasized the role that public access venues, including libraries, can play in increasing the quality and quantity of MOOC use for young people. These are a few among many examples demonstrating the adaptive nature of libraries and evidence that these changes better the communities involved. Libraries transform in order to transform the lives around them, and that’s why we’re appreciating all the work libraries are doing around the world this week.