Solutions for Self-Reliance

Libraries Leading the Local Movement


We spend a great deal of time discussing the local movement and initiatives that promote resiliency within communities across the country and around the world. One of the most interesting things about the resiliency movement is it can start literally anywhere and at anytime.

One of the best examples of a traditional model that has successfully implemented new techniques that promotes both local community and resiliency are public libraries. Libraries have been around for hundreds of years, but recently they have experienced a significant decline in membership due to technology.


Every day, more people ditch their paperbacks and reach instead for a Kindle, Nook, or other favorite e-reader. But it’s not just libraries that have been affected by this new trend. A few years ago, we watched Border’s (a national book retailer) shut down completely in the wake of the e-book explosion. Barnes & Noble’s is still successful; largely due to the popularity of its e-reader device, the Nook.

You might be concerned that our local libraries would soon face the same fate as Border’s. Fortunately, libraries across the country have started looking for new ways to attract visitors and truly represent the essence of resiliency in the process.

Libraries Embrace the Maker Movement

Most public libraries have offered craft classes, scrapbooking, and book reading clubs for years. This is nothing new. Many traditional libraries have started branching out, however, by offering new classes and services designed to strengthen the local community and keep people coming.

We have covered tool libraries in the past. There are some libraries, such as the Grosse Point Public Library in Michigan, that have started offering tool rentals in addition to books, magazines, and other publications. Other libraries have started renting electronic equipment including digital synthesizers and camcorders. One library in Scotland is even offering pole dancing classes (if you are so inclined).

The point is that libraries are beginning to realize that the classes offered within the building are often as valuable as the literature found on its shelves. In fact, it’s easy to see how migrating into the Maker Movement is so easy for libraries that have been promoting scrapbooking and teen craft projects for years already as these are maker projects themselves.

According to Tina Coleman of the American Library Association, libraries are now realizing that the same principles that have guided these traditional library classes can be applied to new horizons including robotics classes and partnerships with local maker/hacker spaces.


For example, the Chicago Public Library has a space designed specifically for digital making. Visitors can take advantage of a full digital recording studio and video editing equipment right in the public library.

Still other libraries are looking at incorporating 3-D printing technology. This technology would allow people to create 3-D objects without the expense typically associated with purchasing your own 3-D printing equipment. Soldering stations, laser cutting stations, and welding rooms are also being planned in libraries around the United States.


What’s the Point?

If the local movement that is being cultivated in libraries around the world isn’t enough, it is certainly clear that people’s interest in the classes and social events held at these libraries demonstrates the demand for hands-on learning.

Books are a wonderful tool and reading is very important. In fact, there are some alarming statistics that directly correlate youth illiteracy with a future life of crime. However, libraries are creating new solutions by relying on a reactive, community-centric model that is certain to become an integral part of our own push for local movement and resiliency.

The wealth of knowledge contained in the books of any library combined with hands-on learning in everything from 3-D printing to laser engraving means that more people within our own communities will possess the skills and knowledge to create sustainable micro-economies anywhere in the country (or the world).

If your local library hasn’t started working to adopt a community-centric maker model yet, be the voice that pushes for resiliency. Talk to library administrators about starting some classes that could be of interest to others in your community. Many of the agricultural techniques and technology innovations we discuss here would be perfect candidates for classes at the local library.

It’s exciting to see at least part of the government working with the people to create solutions instead of more problems. Let’s embrace the resiliency of our libraries and help to foster stronger communities with the knowledge that can be gained in this most unlikely of places.

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