Tech Talker: Next Generation Libraries

(NBC NEWS) 3D printers, laser cutters and robotics classes are probably not what you would expect to see at your local library, but they’re on the way.

“Libraries today are transforming,” says American Library Association President Sari Feldman. “It’s a very exciting time where it’s so much more about what we DO for people, than what we have for people.”

98% of public libraries offer technology training and free WiFi, more than 90% offer e-books, and more than half offer entrepreneurship development programs.

“This is just a whole new way of delivering information,” says Mike Wozniak, Information Services Manager for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library. “We’re moving away from the traditional books and providing more interesting spaces to give people training and equipment to do a wide range of things.”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library is one of the growing number of libraries that offer what’s described as a “Maker Space” for patrons.

“It’s shown the public we’re a place where you can create content,” says Feldman, “not just read and learn about ideas that other people have developed.”

The spaces aim to provide a collaborative environment to help locals turn their ideas into reality.

“We have high tech equipment like a vinyl cutter and even low-tech equipment like tools and sewing machines,” Wozniak says. “And it’s all available to use for free.”

The library has training programs for software, 3D modeling, coding and programming among other things. Even craft classes and STEM classes like robotics are offered.

Many libraries also offer services such as unemployment assistance, handicapped accessible technology and internet access for those who may not have it at home.

The trend is morphing the role of libraries to expand the resources it provides and act as a community center, but even with all the changes and upgrades, you can still check out an old-fashioned hard cover book.

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