Throughout the centuries, libraries have primarily served to provide access to physical collections. The design of library buildings and spaces—from collections of papyri to closed stacks to today’s open stacks and circulation desks—is a testimony to that mission. Staffing, programming, and general user expectations reinforced and perpetuated this role. As a result, public perceptions of libraries as repositories for print-based and physical media persist today.
In Rhode Island and across the nation, libraries are increasingly exploring new ways to engage communities beyond traditional print-based services. Libraries are embracing their role as community hubs that empower residents to be active learners and creators by providing learning lounges, computer science training, literacy programs, and makerspaces. But more work needs to be done to truly transform the experience of those who visit libraries and empower libraries to meet the needs of the twenty-first century users.
The Studio Rhode Next Generation Library Challenge supports Rhode Island libraries to explore ways to accelerate this transformation. It provides Rhode Island libraries the opportunity to use technology and space in different and innovative ways in order to provide new services to their communities. This reimagining of tools and space—as well as the integration of traditional and new services—enables libraries to proactively create their future. Studio Rhode is led by the Office of Library and Information Services in conjunction with the Rhode Island Office of Innovation.
Studio Rhode is not simply meant to support individual libraries in the Ocean State. This project and the framework that supports it is meant to provide replicable and scalable learnings for libraries throughout Rhode Island and beyond. The Studio Rhode libraries are exemplars for the positive community impact of the Studio Rhode framework, the potential of next generation library models more generally, and proof points that sustainable and impactful projects are possible.
As of September 2018, Studio Rhode has run two rounds of funding support. The first round launched in Spring 2017 with two grant winners: Woonsocket Harris Public Library and Westerly Library & Wilcox Park. The second round ran in Spring 2018 with four supported libraries: Adams Public Library, Greenville Public Library, Providence Community Library, and Warwick Public Library.
The Studio Rhode Next Generation Library Challenge is grounded by three core principles:
The concept of Community Concierge imagines a library that is shaped around the needs of all community members, regardless of ability, socioeconomic status, or age. Libraries embracing a Community Concierge approach use the experiences of library goers as the key driver of the design of both the physical and virtual space of the library. We believe this tenet creates an open, inclusive, engaging, and interactive place for collaboration, driven by a clear understanding of user requirements, tools, and learning activities tailored to those needs.
Studio Rhode envisions the library as a place for members of the community to design, create, and share knowledge with next-generation digital tools. Studio Rhode seeks to transform libraries into places of active knowledge creation—by creating digital stories and new media or using digital tools to develop new ideas in service of community and individuals.
Studio Rhode libraries leveraged grant dollars to purchase new and lasting technology that supports the tenets of Community Concierge and Digital Creation Studio. For example, the first Studio Rhode challenge provided two public libraries with access to Apple hardware and all the content that comes with it—through the App Store, iBooks Store, iTunes U and iTunes as well as the tools to become content creators through Apple’s creativity and productivity apps.
The goal of this toolkit is to inspire libraries to embrace change and to think differently about how they deliver programs and services to their communities by embedding technology, reimagining space, and building community partnerships.