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The Hunt Library at North Carolina State University, opened in January of this year, is a state of the art library incorporating design and ideas that challenge current thinking about the purpose of libraries in the 21st Century.

Aiming to encourage creativity and collaboration the library incorporates a mind blowing range of incredible spaces including a gaming lab, a creative studio with floor-to-ceiling projector screen and makerspaces fitted out with 3D printers. The library is replete with glass surfaces – walls and tables – on which students are free to write, to discuss to exchange and explore ideas. White boards abound allowing students to teach and learn from each other. The incredible range and variety of spaces which include 80 different kinds of chairs are intended to inspire and engage students.

Not forgotten though are the books that normally sustain the main purpose of a library. Instead of traditional shelving though, books at The Hunt Library are stored 6 metres below the first floor where two million volumes are packed into a fraction of the space that conventional shelving would occupy. Browsing the collection on the digital catalogue students’ book selections are delivered within five minutes by BookBot, a robotic system.

Describing the design and nature of Hunt Library in an article, The University library of the future, Erin Millar summarises the words of Martha Whitehead, Head Librarian at Queens University, saying:

The primary function of libraries continues to be finding information; what has changed is the nature of the questions being asked. Students used to come to libraries to find what Whitehead calls “quick facts” (easily looked up now online) but now they come with complex inquiries. They want to know what type of information exists on a topic and how their own work fits into the scholarly literature landscape. This shift reflects how universities have changed teaching to better prepare students for the 21st century, Whitehead says.

“It’s less about the instructor imparting information to the student than about the skill set to be a lifelong learner — how to think, how to inquire and how to learn.”

This video describing the design and features of Hunt Library certainly poses much food for thought, not only on the direction of libraries of the future, but on how our current libraries can be re-thought to be more appealing to our student population.

Anyone reading care to give it a go?

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