Crowdsourced Design: Why Los Angeles Is Asking the Public to Create the Library of the Future

Do you want a maker space? A cafe? Designing the library of the future is up to you.

If you could design your own public, community library of the future, what would it look like?

How would it help your community and address the needs of the underserved?

This year marks the 141st anniversary of the Los Angeles Public Library. Since its founding in 1872 as a modest reading room in rented space downtown, the Los Angeles Public Library has expanded to include the Richard J. Riordan Central Library and 72 municipal branch libraries that stretch from the Los Angeles Harbor region in San Pedro to nearly 50 miles north in Sylmar, and from El Sereno in East LA to nearly the Pacific Ocean, almost 40 miles to the west.

The library serves over four million people—the largest population of any library in the United States—and is the largest public research institution west of the Mississippi River. In 2011, nearly 13 million people visited the library and borrowed more than 15 million physical and electronic items.

The Los Angeles Public Library’s mission is to provide free and easy access to information, ideas, books, and technology that enrich, educate and empower every individual in our city's diverse communities.

Despite our size, the expanse of the area we serve, the programs we currently offer, the library is nothing without its community. So, we're surveying the public and asking them to tell us how we can best continue to fulfill our mission and help us create a collaborative vision of y/our library of the future.

While the library has always aimed to be the vibrant center of every community it serves, much has changed in the past twenty years. Once a place mainly for physical books, we now offer over 100 databases which feature electronic access to thousands of newspapers, magazines, journals, encyclopedias and more. We also offer access to over one half million e-books, e-audiobooks, video on demand, and music files on demand in addition to a collection of more than six million books in many languages—all free, all shared and all chosen and coordinated with the goals of engagement, collaboration, and participation.

The library has become a place where powerful personal change happens, with special areas within the libraries just for children and teens, and neighborhood literacy centers where adults learn to read. With innovative technology, free computers and computer classes, it is the place where everyone in L.A. can bridge the digital divide—and it is one of the last remaining places where one can stay all day without purchasing anything.

We know, however, that as we head toward the third decade of the 21st Century, we have to further adjust to meet the needs of the community. There's the question of whether the library of the future still needs to carry physical books at all. Perhaps some people are asking themselves, how is the library still relevant to me? But if people do not currently use their local library, what can the library do to change that?

We already provide job hunting resources, resume workshops, and teach computer skills. We try to make sure those who are new to the United States find a home in the library so we offer immigration and citizenship information. We also feature financial literacy workshops and programs to encourage youth and adolescent development and literacy. But is that enough? Is that what the public wants?

We've been inspired by the Maker Movement so we're asking ourselves if libraries should have makerspaces, loan out tools or even become a seed bank? Should there be an area to create your own media—like YouTube videos, book trailers, music, and more? And do people want workshops on how to fix bikes, learn Arduino or Scratch, or design video games?

We also need to know whether people still want quiet areas, study rooms, meeting rooms, multipurpose rooms and performance spaces. How should the services and information in the library be organized? Would you charge late fines or offer a fine-free amnesty period? Do people still want cafés at the library?

There are so many exciting possibilities—we are full of ideas—but we need your help honing our focus. We can't design the library of the future without your help—no city can. Answer our brief 2-minute survey and tell us your vision.

Candice Mack is the Teen Services & Outreach Librarian at the Richard J. Riordan Central Library in Los Angeles.

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship. This week: Get a Library Card. Follow along, join the discussion, and share your experience at #goodcitizen.

Public library image via Shutterstock


For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via ICE / Flickr

The Connors family, two coupes from the United Kingdom, one with a three-month old baby and the other with twin two-year-olds, were on vacation in Canada when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned their holiday into a 12-plus day-long nightmare.

On October 3, the family was driving near the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia when an animal veered into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour.

The family accidentally crossed into the United States where they were detained by ICE officials in what would become "the scariest experience of our lives," according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

Keep Reading Show less