Introducing: Common Libraries

Common Libraries is prototyping the library of the future – today.

When Andrew Carnegie first made grants to public libraries at the turn of the twentieth century, he described them as ‘instruments for the elevation of the masses of the people’. Libraries were subsequently established to provide access to learning and advancement for people who would otherwise have limited opportunities for education or self-improvement. Their purpose, then, was educational and they were to be spaces open to everyone in a community who wanted access to books and learning. The provision of access to information, knowledge and learning continues to characterise public libraries in the twenty-first century. Nowadays, however, libraries are fast evolving to become what some have termed ‘read/write’ platforms that provide access to broad-ranging media as well as multi-media manipulation tools. The information with which they’re concerned increasingly includes data that is stored electronically, and library services themselves straddle the offline/online world.

The emergence of ‘library-hack-makerspaces’ is, then, very welcome – not least, insofar as they harbour the potential for STEAM skills development at the very heart of our communities, in keeping with libraries’ educational remit. And, yet, we’ve still to witness a thoroughgoing disruption of libraries’ twentieth century institutional boundaries – ideally, to establish knowledge production on an equal footing with knowledge consumption, reflecting the democratisation of the means of reproduction in the Western world. That is, we’ve still to see twenty-first century libraries established as bona fide peer-to-peer platforms for the purposes of facilitating knowledge exchange founded upon Commons principles.

We believe that library services should provide access to and enable development of a multimedia commons. Our modest team is using its expertise in design, technology, community engagement and enterprise to work closely with library service users and providers. We are empowering x3 prototypes at present to co-design and deliver activities that are responsive to evolving needs, and always with a view to rendering library services more sustainable in their appeal to broad-ranging audiences. And, we’re game to help prototype most things – from community publishing platforms to #opendata access points.

But, we’re also eager to work with people who are interested in exploring the potential for peer-to-peer knowledge exchange to be underpinned by adaptation of the #blockchain used by cryptocurrency developers - where the introduction of an oracle machine might make it possible for #humansearch to once again add value, albeit in more of a virtual library context…

Our team benefits from extensive experience working with the public and third sectors as well as with creative industry professionals. Over the past five years, we have contributed to relevant research for national bodies and advised local government. We’ve also helped establish a test-bed for library service transformation at St Botolph’s Waiting Room, working in partnership with Essex Libraries and supported by the Carnegie UK Trust, and have managed community-led library services in numerous locations at the local level. We’re also involved in the delivery of a national programme exploring the potential for communities to develop digital assets and enterprises.

For further information, visit: and/or get in touch via @commonlibraries