Across Australia some 112 million people visit one of the 1,530 public libraries that scatter the country.
From ancient ‘reading rooms’ attached to baths to the first recorded public library in Europe in 1452, to the humble mobile lending vans, libraries have become flagship civic hubs where all facets of society can come together.
The onset of the information age, and the emergence of ‘smart cities’, has created an opportunity for libraries and information services to redefine their place in the public sphere.
It has given cities the chance to re-evaluate and transform the role of public libraries as powerful public assets for economic development, community engagement and knowledge.
Toronto Public Library is a world leader in the re-imagining of the public library space. With 100 branches it is one of the world’s busiest urban public library systems and identifies as ‘a continuously evolving story’.
In practice this means evolving from traditional roles of facilitating access to information to actively promoting social connectivity and equity of access within the modern information technology paradigm.
Social workers are on staff beside librarians and locals can borrow WiFi hotspots as readily as the latest best seller. By broadening the role of the library Toronto has also addressed the public library as public place and as a safe place for all, working with the city to best serve all aspects of the community.
This coming November urban leaders and librarians are invited to come together to collaborate and conspire on how libraries can through technology, be the epicenter for innovation, knowledge, inclusivity and equity.
At SWITCH 2019 Smart. Engaged. Resilient., Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager City of San Jose (USA) and Cities Leadership Institute Executive Director Katherine O’Regan will provide local and global insights on how communities can embrace public libraries as key players in growing smart cities.
Register for SWITCH here.
A smart city needs all of its citizens to be smart citizens and public libraries, as arbiters of equality and creative knowledge spaces, are integral to the future resilience and cohesion of cities.
Executive Director, Cities Leadership Institute