5,000 Years of Adaptability: The Proud Past and Bright Future of Libraries


Experts have been predicting the demise of libraries for years—well, actually for millennia, going back to the fall of Ancient Rome. More recently, it seems every time some new media form comes along—television, the internet, smart phones, e-readers, etc.—Chicken Little proclamations suggest libraries are on the verge of extinction. One of the most over-the-top examples of such claims: 2018’s now-retracted column in Forbes that suggested Amazon should replace libraries.

Yet, nearly 5,000 years after the first library was formed in southern Mesopotamia, there are nearly eight times more libraries in the United States than there are McDonald’s restaurants. How is this possible? How have libraries remained relevant despite all these wonderful new inventions?

The answer is simple: adaptability. Libraries have consistently evolved to keep pace with changing times, while providing a place for learning and community-building. Advancements in technology—even a global pandemic unlike any other in recent memory—haven’t meant the end of libraries. Far from it! Rather, such changes and challenges have only inspired libraries to serve their communities in new ways.

At SHP, library design is a cornerstone of our Community Studio. We have had the opportunity—and the pleasure—to be a part of libraries’ adaptability for decades. In our latest whitepaper, we examine how libraries have evolved to meet current needs while preparing for what’s coming next. Click here to access the whitepaper.

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