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The rebirth of libraries in the digital age

Canberra’s public library memberships are on the rise, seeing 44% all Canberrans holding a membership card. 


The ACT’s Public Libraries have been going under a transformation. To meet the emergence of the digital age, they have evolved from hushed and dark corners into vibrant community spaces, ones that emphasises creation rather than collection.


There’s still the emphasis of books here, but recent renovations earlier this year in the Woden branch have made way for new facilities. These include a podcasting studio, recording and rehearsal studio, and even a community kitchen.  


Carlos Gongora is the Creative Digital Officer at Woden’s public library. He is in charge of managing the podcasting studio, and says the space has become immensely popular.


“Well this whole facility is born from the community because they asked us to do this […] there’s been a lot of different people who have come in.” he says.


ACT’s public libraries have been increasing its engagement with community wants and needs.


With the onset of COVID-19, ACT’s libraries have evolved innovate and untraditional ways of sharing resources with the community. In the past year alone, more than 700,000 digital resources – known as eResources – were made available to the public.


These public digital eResources are available through apps such as Libby and Borrowbox, or in online archives.


Jaz Beer is the Belconnen locations branch coordinator, and has been with ACT libraries for 15 years. She says the work the libraries are doing to meet the digital age, and the publics expectations, has been transforming both the space, and the community.


“We’re taking on board the need to cater to different audiences and also [we’re] talking to customers and finding out what it is that they want,” she says.


“We used to spend a lot of time helping with basic tasks […] the way we’ve changed has allowed us to focus on other really exciting things.”


One of these is the work that is cementing the library as a community space, rather than just an archive of books. To accommodate for Canberra’s growing multi-cultural community, one of the more structured services the library offers are the English Conversation classes.


Sali, who came to Australia from Iran four months ago, says she find the class invaluable. She says that it’s not just the support for learning a language that is important to here, but the community that is fostered, as well as her understanding of Australia’s culture.


“The class is very good for me, I learn the accent, the Australian one and other countries and I learn new words,” she says.


Sali is joined by Mary, who has been living in Australia from China, and says the classes have given her an opportunity to finally learn English.


“I come here to Australia for 20 years. I come here to do work, [...] but the work stopped [me] learning English. […] I come here to study,” she says.


They learned of the classes online, where you can find all information of what you can access at ACT’s Public libraries, and how to find events.

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