James B Hunt library on Centennial Campus of NC State University in Raleigh NC

Beyond the Books: 21st-Century Libraries

Clearview Library District News


Beyond the Books — the library’s leadership program — offers community members a monthly immersive and behind-the-scenes look at the Clearview Library District. Each month we’ll offer a recap of the session. The inaugural series wrapped in December with a presentation by Architect Dennis Humphries, AIA, of Ratio.

With a career spanning 40 years, Architect Dennis Humphries has played an important role in shaping the civic landscape of Colorado — literally. With more than 80 library projects under his belt, he has witnessed the changing role of libraries in their respective communities and how that has influenced their physical space.

“When we started designing libraries 20 years ago, libraries were primarily a book-based environment. Rows and rows of tall shelving units in response to the desire to pack in more books,” shared Humphries. “Technology came along and presented new challenges.”

From hallowed halls of books to the compact shelving of the 1980s, and the CRT monitors of the early 2000s to iPads, libraries have and will continue to evolve. Humphries has also seen the role of libraries expand.

“Today’s libraries have many needs placed upon them, well beyond just being a resource for the written word,” Humpries explained. “We typically ask folks at every library commission what can they do in a library. The responses are amazing. Patrons come to libraries to learn new skills, learn new languages, engage with fellow community members, people watch, and gain access to the latest technology.”

Increasingly, libraries are also filling the role of community hub.

“Today’s prolific advance of portable technology has resulted in the creation of a serious issue of isolation in our communities. Too many users of technology are self-proclaimed as ‘lonely,’” he shared. “Libraries are trusted as a safe place and trusted as a major source of information. It is only natural that libraries have become the third place in our communities offering the opportunity for the community to come together.”

Through Humphries’ extensive experience, one word encompasses the 21st-century library: flexible.

“Flexibility in the library’s design is key to the future success of the library as it adapts to new trends and programs,” he said. “A 21st-century library is defined by how it responds to the unique needs of its community that also facilitates a balance of spaces for experiences. This model does not result in less space for books, it suggests 21st-century libraries have transitioned from a place for transactions to a place for relationships.”

With the evolution of the library, our district faces a challenging question: how do we meet the diverse and changing needs of a growing community in a building constructed more than 30 years ago for a population of 10,000?

With direction from our community as outlined in the 2020-2022 Strategic Plan, we look to explore all opportunities surrounding this question of space as we look to align our physical home with the evolving practices of a library in the 21st century.


Missed the session? Download the Clearview Library District presentation.