The aptly named 21st century Library recently made its grand debut in Colorado Springs on June 23rd. Nicknamed the “library of the future”, this contemporary athenaeum boasts sewing machines, 3D printers, and sophisticated computers. Not to disregard the written word, 21c Library has also laid claim to hundreds of fresh new books for curious minds—many more than the closed Briargate branch 21c was upgraded from. Having personally been inside the spacious new building, I can attest to the glowing modernization.
Though the project cost a staggering 10.7 million dollars—including purchasing the new location building, adding renovations to the 120,000 square foot area, and adding in cutting-edge technology—the library holds no debt in its dusty record books. Rather, the opening has led to the creation of 30 to 35 new jobs and has involved much of the Pikes Peak Library District’s administrative workers. Not to mention the generation of innovation and learning it will create.
Originally the small operating budget had forced library officials to consider constructing an entirely new building for the library—a decision that would have cost more money and, by consequence, have left less money for modern amenities at 21c. Fortunately, at the corner of Chapel Hills Street is a building—the once former home of MCI Communications Corp—that has lain dormant for nearly a decade, patiently waiting for PPLD to unload books into its empty halls.
Once the deal was closed and PPLD’s claim was laid, 21c Library was born. Within three short weeks, books, movies, CDs, magazines, and book tapes were loaded into boxes at the Briargate Branch and shipped off to their new home. Having gone to the tiny Briargate Branch for many years, walking into 21c for the first time was a huge shock: to my left was a business center filled with desks and new computers; to my right, a community room and theater seated for 400. There are two levels in the building. The top is geared towards new features less commonly associated with libraries (3D printer anyone?) while the bottom floor contains the usual (Kids Area, Teen Room, and books, books, books galore).
Once I adjusted to the size of 21c, it was really the technology that reeled me in. The 3-day check-outs have experienced an upgrade: rather than just plucking one off the shelf and checking it out manually, hot new DVDs are housed in a kiosk. This may not seem like groundbreaking technology—just like a vending machine for movies, right?—but the kiosk involves a more complicated programming algorithm than hitting a button and receiving the corresponding candy bar. When you first step up to the kiosk, the touchscreen prompts you to slide your library card—a move that inevitably means the kiosk is wired to the library’s vast database. Once you are checked in, there are a wide variety of fresh games, movies, and CDs to choose from. When one is selected, the machine will check it out for you—no other work required—and spit out an encased DVD for your viewing pleasures.
This is actually one of the less advanced parts of the library. There are the Biblioteca check-out stations, which lodge small spaces to put check-out items into. Forget tiredly holding the book’s bar-code in front of that blinking red light—put up to three items in this space and the check-out stations will not only find the bar codes for you, but scan them in as well. Not to mention the 3D printers (which I haven’t yet had a chance to investigate but am eager to do), sewing machines (need to stitch on an extra button?), and spanking new computers with wide, beautiful screens.
Beyond inspiring young minds—or minds of any age, really—to innovate through all the new technology installed, the library is inspiring the old-fashioned way: books. The main book display sitting on the lower level hosts books about technology leaders like Steve Jobs, books about making companies and businesses geared towards creativity and modernism, and just plain old books about technology. And sitting between all those stacks of pages is a computer motherboard (in case someone needed more inspiration). The annual summer reading program PPLD organizes for children is also geared towards the future; the theme—Fizz, Boom, Read!—centers on robotics and awards nifty prizes relating to the subject (robotic arm anyone?)
Speaking of robotics, guess what cut the ribbon to open this new library? That’s right: a robot. After Coronado high school’s student-designed ribbon-cutter opened the doors to hundreds of eager spectators, the team of students held demonstrations throughout the day about robotics and what their team does throughout the year. Though their presentation only lasted for the day, the library will be hosting plenty of contemporary activities year-round to take the ribbon-cutter’s place. There are web design classes in the HTML programming language for anyone interested in getting a website off the ground (eager to start a blog?), Teen Technology Tuesdays, and even a Computer Basics course.
In any case tomorrow’s leaders and today’s thinkers need a break, there are game rooms filled with all the new gaming technology to check out. Technology has been implemented to help advance us—but every advancer needs a break!
While at first I was upset to see my beloved Briargate Branch go, I am inspired every time I walk into 21c to go out and innovate for the future. Library of the future indeed.