Last night, I met with the Library & ITS student advisory group to introduce our Media Lab. “Why do Libraries and IT have a joint advisory group?” I asked. We talked about the origin story of libraries and made some connections to libraries of today. What were some reasons for the oldest libraries?

Bibliotheca Alexandrina plaza 003

Bibliotheca Alexandrina plaza

The group suggested:

  • Repository of knowledge
  • Forum for scholarship
  • Expensive and rare items
  • Belief that access should be free and open
  • Propagate literacy
  • Place of creative inquiry and learning

Libraries in the 21st century pursue this same list, but the digital world has suffused most aspects. Many collections that were historically paper are now digital. Search tools are almost exclusively digital. Scholarship itself can have the digital world be its focus (Baylor has two “Digital Scholarship Liaison Librarians.” Check out blogs.baylor.edu/digitalscholarship/). Add to this a new kind of literacy, “digital literacy,” which is increasingly fundamental to navigating our culture, and the connection between the IT function and libraries is apparent.

This idea of “digital literacy” and creative inquiry using new media are at the heart of our Media Lab. Students across majors must also be “fluent” in digital media for their careers. Graphic design, web development, and the process of planning, recording, editing, and publishing are nearly essential skills in today’s world, as reading and writing were for the educated in the era of the first public libraries.

The ALA “Libraries Transform” initiative writes, “Libraries are committed to advancing their legacy of reading and developing a digitally inclusive society” (ilovelibraries.org/librariestransform/about. 7 Oct. 2016). The main idea of this initiative is to demonstrate that while the resources libraries provide evolve, what libraries do for and with people is as essential as ever. The Media Lab is a great example of libraries doing what they always have, in new ways.

Libraries “transform’ so that libraries may “transform.”