As libraries continue to push the boundaries on their role and their impact on communities, campuses & organizations, they need to look at other types of institutions & programs for inspiration. Like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s new 13,400 square foot, $15 million Visitors Center complex in Seattle.  Thanks to CIO.com for a slideshow of the opening, and this description:  “The center includes a number of interactive sections like the Innovation & Inspiration Gallery, where folks can take a “Find Your Skills” quiz or create their own inventions out of Tinker toys and all manner of other objects. Visitors are encouraged to take digital photos of their “ideas” and post them online.

The press release for the Center explains that once people have completed the  “Find Your Skills” quiz to help them identify their own strengths and passions, they proceed to “explore various stations aligned to their strengths that ask them to solve real-world problems and share their solutions with family and friends.

Newsday also highlights the Center’s opening, “In one of the first galleries, a wall of wooden blocks with dates on them can all be flipped to reveal photographs and bits of information. A large wooden globe is fun to spin, but it also works like a computer mouse to sail through a map of the world. Kids could also bypass the interactive displays and go straight to the fun room at the end of the walkway by the windows. There they’ll find games and toys and other hands-on activities, including some doo-dads to put together. Who knows? They might just build a world-changing invention.”

While libraries may not have the millions of dollars to create this type of centre, this center, as well as other museums, research labs and other institutions offer a mind-boggling array of ideas for us to learn from and share. I particularly like the Gates’ Center’s simple, “What to expect:” explanation on the website. How often do libraries tell people simply, “what to expect” when they visit (physically or digitally) or interact with the library? Here’s the Gates’ Centers’:

What to expect:

Does that last point hit a cord? Academic, public, government, non-profit or corporate — all libraries focus on ways to change lives and positively impact decisions. Let’s learn from other complimentary organizations – like this Center – how to engage people to “take action” in their “unique ways.”