Will libraries exist in half a century? That is the question I hear others debating. Forbes magazine recently printed an opinion piece by Panos Mourdoukoutas titled, “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money”. Forbes deleted the frivolous article after receiving severe criticism from not only librarians but library advocates. Regardless, libraries will remain with us despite the criticism. Currently there are more libraries than Starbucks or McDonald’s!
Libraries will not become obsolete as technology has actually enhanced our services not worked against us. Libraries have transformed themselves from the stereotypical place where librarians in tight buns and long cardigans “shush” patrons. 21st Century libraries promote diplomatic public discourse in our adult and teen programs, while still maintaining quiet areas for those who seek silence and solitude from their everyday chaotic world. Librarians are information scientists who want to make patrons lifelong learners.
Libraries provide accessible and accurate information to the public while also imparting knowledge, and promoting the culture of reading. They are a sanctuary for the homeless, and underserved populations.
Libraries supply the community with free public Wi-Fi, as well as civic and career engagement. Additionally, we provide technology focused services such as computer classes, 3D printing, and digital conversion. Our Youth Department promotes early literacy with our 1001 Books Before Kindergarten. The initiative is aimed at getting children from age birth to five prepared to ready independently. In their totality, these programs function as community builders.
The common misconception is that libraries will be diminished because of our current digital age and many assume that print books will face their end in upcoming years due to E-books. In my experience patrons are much more likely to ask for recommended books in print form. Parents want to separate their kids from their i-Pads. They want their children to have a free and wireless form of entertainment, a book.
Libraries follow trends, and respond to the specific needs of their community. They meet with schools through outreach programs to support their educational ecosystems. Libraries tend to function as “society’s first responders.” An example of this would be the financial crisis of 2007. This was the year when people flooded to our library doors to take advantage of our free programs and resources; across the county, public libraries were at their largest capacity. According to the Pew Research Center 76% of adults said that libraries served the learning and education needs of their communities either “very well” by 37% or “pretty well” by 39%. 71% said libraries served their own personal needs and the needs of their families “very well or pretty well”.
Libraries are America’s backbone and they are institutions that hold organic knowledge. They are the place where lifelong learners thrive. The library is a welcoming place that will always have its doors open.