It wasn’t too many years ago that the phrase “library technology” would have confused most Americans – even librarians and members of library management. But in 2014, the words “library” and “technology” are becoming more and more intertwined.
Pew Internet, a project of the Pew Research Center, compiled a number of statistics that unveil how Americans now view the importance of library technology. From the upper to lower classes of our society, libraries are seen as developing technological hubs.
Below are some of the important findings in this study of Americans aged 16 and older:
- 80% find it very important for a librarian to be available to help find information.
- 77% find it very important to have free access to computers and internet service.
- 76% find it very important for libraries to offer quiet study spaces.
- 74% find it very important for libraries to offer classes for children and adults.
- 73% find it very important for libraries to offer research resources, e.g., free databases.
- 67% find it very important for libraries to offer job and career resources.
In addition to these statistics, Pew Internet indicates that nearly half of Americans living under the poverty line access email and internet service from libraries.
Many of the services Americans seek are not found in conventional libraries. The reality is that such a library no longer cuts it in today’s digital age.
Some libraries have already embraced the future of library technology. Patrons are able to check out e-readers, e-books and tablets as well as access computers and advanced applications with their library cards.
Some are also integrating digital hangout spaces for patrons to use as global meeting spaces, from book clubs to study groups and more. Interactive learning programs with screenings, live feeds of TED Talks, educational conferences, college and university lectures and other educational sessions are supplementing the new library experience.
In addition, many libraries are incorporating the following services:
The purpose of libraries has always been to preserve and encourage knowledge and learning. But as the needs of Americans change, library administration and management must change and adapt as well.
In many ways, the future is now. Because libraries are here to serve people, their survival and success hinge on meeting the needs of the communities they cater to. As people and technological environments continue to evolve, libraries must do the same – always looking toward the future.
In attempting to forecast the future of libraries, there are five questions to ask yourself:
- What’s the future of knowledge? How is it created? How is it shared? How is it taught?
- What are the future pathways to knowledge? How do you search information? What is required to understand it?
- What is the future of public technology? Where does the local fit in? What access models are enabled in the new era of property?
- What do future learning spaces look like? What fosters collaboration? What is the future of literacy?
- What is the future library clientele? Who is coming into the library? What are they looking for in the library?
The answers to these questions are going to shape the future of libraries. The evolution of the library parallels that of our society. Continuous adaptation to new technologies is essential to your library’s ability to maintain purpose and share knowledge with your community.