The Download: Digital Commons, the library of the future?


The D.C. Public Library opened an 11,000 square-foot technology center called Digital Commons at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library last week. It has 80 computers, e-readers and a 3-D printer, among other equipment. (Philip Freelon)

Make no mistake: Libraries aren’t just for books anymore.

The D.C. Public Library debuted Digital Commons at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library on G Street NW last week. The 11,000 square-foot technology center features 80 computers loaded with the latest software, a hands-on display of e-reader devices and a 3D printer.

The $3.4 million project, which included structural renovations, aims to keep the library relevant as a community fixture at a time when home Internet access is common and books are read on paper with less frequency.

“We know that our customers are changing. We know that it’s important that we find ways to serve customers in a manner that they need and expect,” Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper said.

The 80 computers include 50 PCs, 18 iMacs and 12 computers for short-term use. There are also 50 workstations for those with their own devices, and a co-working space for start-ups called Dream Lab.

An e-reader display offers patrons the chance to thumb and swipe different readers on the market and staff will show library users how to download e-books and other digital content.

Still enjoy the feel of an actual book? There’s a print-on-demand machine that can rapidly churn out books or other documents.

Perhaps the priciest individual piece of technology is a 3D printer that generates objects that users create using the library’s design software. Last week, one person printed a replica of his face.

“The benefit to the community is we’re really allowing them to be exposed to this new technology. There is still this digital divide in our community unfortunately,” said Nicholas Kerelchuk, manager of Digital Commons.

So what audience is the library trying to reach with Digital Commons?

“We’ll see new entrepreneurs, and that can be anything from a teenager to someone in their 60s looking at their next career in life. I don’t know that we have one particular customer,” Cooper said.

But even as the look and equipment at libraries change, Cooper said she believes their core function and identity remain the same.

For example, the Digital Commons space includes five conference rooms and a 50-seat meeting space, which will serve as a venue for job training and educational classes, Cooper said.

“For a long time, libraries have played a role in learning, in workforce development, in people finding new things they’re interested in,” Cooper said. “We’ve just expanded the ways in which they can do that.”

Sequella lands drug

Rockville-based Sequella, a biotechnology firm that develops treatments for infectious diseases, announced last week it would license a tuberculosis antibiotic under development by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

The deal adds a drug called Sutezolid to Sequella’s portfolio, which already contains another tuberculosis treatment that’s currently in clinical trials.

The disease is typically treated with multiple medications, and chief executive Carol Nacy said Pfizer’s drug has proven compatible with Sequella’s in prior tests.

The financial terms of the deal, including any future revenue sharing between the companies, were not disclosed.

The announcement comes as the 12-person Sequella looks to raise money from investors. Nacy said the company has upped the amount sought to $38 million in light of the Pfizer deal and the costs of carrying that drug through its remaining clinical trials and the regulatory process.

“Pfizer has essentially validated our business model and our approach to developing new antibiotics, and I think that’s a good thing for anybody who’s looking to invest in us,” Nacy said.

Partnership for 2U

Landover-based 2U, a company that helps universities create online graduate degrees, announced an information and data science program last week in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Information.

The program marks a first for 2U: The degree was built from scratch entirely for the Web, meaning there’s no on-campus equivalent. Traditionally, 2U has solely created online versions of pre-existing degrees, such as its program with Georgetown University’s nursing school.

The company is also developing programs for undergraduate students to earn course credits online from well-known universities. The firm’s new offerings come as universities look to increase revenue while facing criticism about soaring tuition rates.

steven.overly@washpost.com

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.

business

capitalbusiness

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business

business

capitalbusiness

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.