After several delays since breaking ground in May 2013, the new Central Library finally opened late October of this year—and we are impressed to say the least. The Central Library is leaving members of the public in awe, from its incredible incorporation of natural lighting to the modern features throughout the facility. The most apparent theme throughout the building is its embrace of technology. We visited the library and were able to get some additional information on the technology that is included in this facility from the Public Information Specialist of the Austin Library System, Kanya Lyons. Learn more below about these major pieces of technology you will find inside Austin’s newest library.
Whatever device a visitor to the library might need, the Austin Central Library has it ready to check out. Equipped with over 140 large screen PC and Mac computers throughout the building, visitors can sit down and complete work or browse the internet as they wish. There are also 150 portable laptops available which can be utilized throughout the building, including on the rooftop, outdoor reading deck, and in the various lounge areas available. These devices include Macbooks, Chromebooks, HP tablets and AfterSchool Edge devices, which can be found in the selfcheck kiosk areas throughout the library. This allows visitors to simply swipe their library card and select the device they want to borrow, upon which the device is unlocked and available for the user. Having these devices readily available for community use ensures visitors can pick their preferred device for whatever they are working on.
While it isn’t too rare to have wireless internet access at one’s local library, it is pretty amazing that the Austin Central Library can boast Google Fiber internet connection. Offering wireless internet with high speeds that are 100 times faster than what the average American home offers, visitors can use the library space as a dependable facility to complete any projects or work.
Perhaps the most impressive technology feature of Austin’s Central Library is the technology petting zoo. In this area on the fifth floor, visitors can test out and play with a wide range of devices. This is a great option for people who are considering buying a specific device, or for those who want to learn how to use different pieces of technology. The technology petting zoo doesn’t only contain your “everyday” devices. Visitors can demo several pieces of technology including a new Playstation virtual reality headset, the Makerbot 3D printer, a Google Home, the Philips Hue Starter Kit, and so much more! Also in this area is the Innovation Lab and Lounge, a public area for visitors to access a wide range of tools including additional 3D printers, Raspberry Pi kits, soldering irons, and even a computerized sewing machine.
Located throughout the library are big screen displays that can be utilized for a wide variety of purposes. There are over 50 large screen displays, some of which are in shared learning rooms which allow users to mirror content from their electronic device to the screen for presentations and shared learning experiences. Conference rooms are able to be reserved through a reservation software system on iPads located at the entrance to each room. Additionally, when there are events happening on the second floor of the library—puppet shows, cooking demonstrations and more are all on the schedule—they can be streamed to these big screens for people to watch on other floors of the building. This dynamic setup allows for a true shared learning environment for Austin’s tech savvy population.
Say goodbye to long lines at the library to check out your materials. Visitors can use the self checkout kiosks to take care of checking out books at the library, just like they would at any other convenience store self check-out. This small piece of technology makes a huge impact on the ease of borrowing from the library, hopefully encouraging more people to make use of the convenient public services available in this space.
Lastly, we can’t ignore the technology present in the new Central Austin Library that is making the building completely green. There are natural elements that are helping with this, such as a large atrium in the center of the building and large windows throughout the library to maximize daylight and minimize the need for artificial light. Solar panels are used to shade outside areas while harnessing power for the rest of the building. Other smart energy incorporated throughout the library includes demand-controlled ventilation, variable air and water flow, day lighting controls, and use of LED lighting.
With all of these pieces of technology available to the public in Austin’s new Central Library, the library is well positioned for future advances in technology. The embrace of technology is necessary in order for people to be successful in today’s education system and the workforce. By incorporating several pieces of technology in the new Central Austin Library, Austinites all have access to these tools and education to complement and advance the traditional benefits of public libraries. We look forward to seeing how the Central Library adapts to new technologies in the future.
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