Robots are coming to a library near you

RobotLibraries are becoming more and more high tech with ebooks, tablets, and virtual visits. But one feature at the Wesport Library in Connecticut is straight out of science fiction. The library will introduce a pair of toddler-sized robots named Vincent and Nancy. With flashing lights for eyes, an ability to sing, dance, and speak 19 different languages, the newest additions are expected to create a lot of excitement.

Library officials will announce the pair of humanoid robots on October 11 at an opening ceremony. The purpose of the robots is to teach children how to code and acquire the computer skills needed today and in the future.

Libraries have offered computer programing and robotics instruction for several years. However, the Wesport Library is the very first to use humanoid robots. Digital Experience Manager, Alex Giannini said the robots are able to take bows, create karate moves, and kick a ball.

Executive Director of the Westport Library, Maxine Bleiweis, said robotics is the next big technological advancement coming into our lives and people must be prepared for it. With so much to learn, it is crucial to get a grasp of robotics as soon as possible. A reason for this she said is that robots will be a part of every job function in the future.

New technology has been a priority at Wesport Library. Bleiweis has made it a point to provide access to advanced technology. An example of this is when it acquired a 3D printer over three years ago. It was the first library in Connecticut to do so as well as one of the first in the United States. It also has a dedicated space for people of all ages to try out computers and technology of all kinds. In this space, patrons can dabble in computer coding and other do it yourself creations.

Other libraries throughout the U.S. are experimenting with robots. Most recently, Chicago Public Libraries, in a partnership with Google, Inc. announced it would make close to 500 robots available at its six locations. These robots, the size of a dinner plate will be utilized to teach patrons computer programming and code.

Many people surmised that the popularity of the internet would mean the end of public libraries. Librarians say technology has had the opposite effect, making people more interested in libraries because of their ability to adapt. Pew Research shows that 81 percent of Americans believe public libraries offer services that many would have a difficult time finding anywhere else.

With schools placing an emphasis on subjects such as science, math, and engineering, robots are coming to the Wesport Library at just the right time.

Giannini believes the technological advancements such as 3D printing and humanoid robots can spur wonder and imagination that may not have been sparked otherwise. For the time being, the robots will be used for practical uses. Giannini sees them helping people find books and greet children that visit the library. He said after a few months the possibilities are endless.

The library is counting on humanoids to spark interest and entice those that may not ordinarily come to the library to check out all of the new technology.