Re-imagining Public Libraries

Strategic Report prepared for the CULC/CBUC Reimagining Libraries Taskforce

Public libraries play an essential role in people’s lives as a source of
accessing information and a place for facilitating knowledge creation.
Throughout history, public libraries have pivoted and evolved to
accommodate and reflect the needs of society. Today, they have
become more than just places to seek knowledge or borrow books.
They provide access to services and spaces for people to gather
or pursue their interests and extend their partnerships to offer
learning, personal development, and recreation programs. Across
ever-changing social and political times and forces, public libraries
have continued to provide free public services and spaces that allow
everyone to feel safe and find opportunity.

If anything is ever considered constant, it would be change. Social,
technological, economic, and political change, disruption, and evolution
are not new to public libraries’ history. Yet, the monumental and rapid
disruption brought about by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has
been like any other. Seemingly overnight, libraries, like many other
businesses and organizations across the country, were forced to
apply different stages of closures, reconfigure their operations and
infrastructure, pivot to digital delivery and services, and reassess their
capabilities and staff capacities. Funding challenges on the municipal
and provincial levels are continually on the rise. They are anticipated
to be more so as governments seek to prioritize and adapt their
funding requirements and models to encourage more innovative and
nimble social and economic impact solutions.

Public libraries of all sizes have been significantly impacted due to the
pandemic, as have the communities they serve. Today, more than ever,
public libraries need to be prepared for possible futures, be ready
to evolve and respond to community recovery and work together to
uphold their collective social purpose and vision in promoting vibrant
democracy, a strong economy, and thriving communities.

Read the Full Report