Libraries aren’t just places where you can check out books anymore. With local budget cuts all over the country, public libraries are going beyond their traditional roles, taking new steps to serve the community, and provide a vast array of social services and educational programs. Here are just a few of the latest innovations:
High School Diplomas
The Los Angeles Public Library is offering an accredited high school diploma program to adult high school drop outs, the first program of its kind in the nation. The Associated Press reports that the library hopes to grant high school diplomas to 150 adults in the first year at a cost to the library of $150,000. The library’s director, John Szabo, also plans to offer 850 online courses for continuing education, and run a program that helps immigrants complete the requirements for U.S. citizenship.
3-D Printing and Robotics Technology
In a move to stay current with digital technology, the St. Helena library in Beaufort County, S.C., recently opened their CreationStation following a $25,000 federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Beaufort Gazette reports that the library will house two 3-D printers capable of building solid objects out of plastic in blue, green, red, yellow and orange, and a digital scanner to capture 3-D objects. Patrons can also explore robotics with BristleBots and Little Bits (DIY robotics kits), create circuits with Arduino boards, and learn about coding and computer science with Raspberry Pi computers.
A Book-Free Library
People are reading books at The Bexar County Digital Library in south San Antonio without flipping a single page. Instead, at the nation’s first all-digital, book-free public library, visitors are scanning online catalogs on Apple touch screen computers and checking out books on e-readers, the LA Times reports. The public library is operated by the county government and was built with $1.9 million in county tax money and $500,000 in private donations. Time magazine described it as an “orange-hued Apple store…stocked with 10,000 e-books, 500 e-readers, 48 computers, and 20 iPads and laptops.”