Yesterday's Toy Store, Today's Library

BY Administrator

As the son of an elementary school teacher, being a reader had never been something for me to consider–it was a mandate. This meant ample trips to the local library.

One quick but important side note is that, in addition to being a fairly regular reader, I was also a toy store junkie.

I remember going to the library when I was about eight years old.
On one particular trip, mom the school teacher felt that I needed to up my game on historical presidential knowledge. The day’s topic of choice: Abraham Lincoln.

As we set out to retrieve a bound collection of printed facts about our 16th President, my mind wandered to the toy store. I loved toys. I loved toys like DiCaprio loves Kate Winslet in Titanic. Like fast food loves cardiologists. Like Garfield loves lasagna. My dad built me a special shelf in my room just to properly display and organize them.

But I think even more than that I loved the energy of the toy store.

Blinking colorful lights. Plastic things reaching out for me…begging to be put into whatever situation my imagine could conjure.

There were furry things yelling at me in weird voices, imploring me to make a new friend. And children careened down every aisle, their parents sometimes amused and sometimes bewildered, chasing after their laughter and fast footfalls.

The store was alive. Possibilities were around every corner. Each and every shelf could not have been more…relevant.

Back to the library. My visit in search of old Abe Lincoln’s story was efficient and effective, though also generally unmemorable and mundane. The library of my childhood was a somber monument to and warehouse for the printed book and, above all else, silence.

Fast forward 25 years.
The thinking has changed. Library directors, branch managers and staff across the country are leading a charge to make libraries a lot more toy store and a lot less funeral parlor. It’s not so quiet. It’s not so sterile. It’s alive, it’s dynamic, it’s (hold onto your seats)…relevant.

Today’s library is morphing into a center for playing, exploring, imagining and creating, and the transformation is truly amazing.

A thought revolution is re-imagining what a library can be for it’s community. Active rather than passive, it’s becoming the town living room, the civic center, the classroom, the tinker space, the playground, the laboratory, the art house and…well…generally the place to hang out.

Filled with technology of all kinds, from digital interactives that quickly let you “browse the stacks” to laptops to work on to story building games that grab kids of all ages, today’s library blends the digital frontier into the fabric of the space.

In addition to becoming an anchor of technical sophistication, today’s library is morphing into a center for learning and exploration.

Everyday libraries are adding spaces for makers to craft structures and gadgets, teaching lessons on software coding and the fine arts, stoking the fire of imagination with live author readings and fostering community fellowship with special events.

The transformation is truly amazing. And it’s making the local library the vibrant center of imagination and thought leadership…and sometimes just plain fun.

Kind of like the old toy store.

To explore examples of how Anode is supporting the transformations taking place across the Nashville Public Library system, view our work for the Southeast Branch and Bellevue Branch, or watch this video on how we are transforming libraries into community destinations.

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