I had a conversation with a patron this afternoon while assisting her at the Youth Services Desk of my library. The topic of the conversation was one that I have had numerous times, particularly when people find out that I am a library employee.
Aren’t libraries going extinct?
Isn’t technology making your job irrelevant?
My answer is always the same: definitely not!
Of course there is a bit of bias in my response, and I can only speak/write based on my own experiences. If you have not been to a library for some time (or ever, in some cases), you might be surprised at what you’d find. I can assure you that it’s not your grandmother’s library.
Technology, for the most part, has been embraced by the library world. Speaking for my particular place of employment, we have free internet and Wi-Fi services, e-readers that can be checked out, a Netflix-esque site which provides free movies, scanners, fax machines, and so on.
The library is also more than simply a book warehouse, it’s also a social center. Parents of young children frequently fill our various story time programs, and then hang out in the preschool area. Middle schoolers come in droves in the afternoon to talk, use the internet, and to play video games during our twice-a-week Teen Zone. The library also provides a welcoming place for those who are homeless and have no place to go during the day.
The library is also needed for research. You might say, “I can do my own research at home via the internet.” However, as many internet users can attest, one can easily drown in the deluge of information available. Moreover, is the information you’re looking through good?
You may be able to sort through the maze of data just fine, but wouldn’t you rather leave that dirty work to the library? After all, the staff is trained to slog through the data, weed out the bad from the good, and to present you, the patron, with the best and most current information possible.
Has the library lost its relevance? As long as we keep up with the times and provide our various communities with what they need, I say no. If, for whatever reason, you have avoided stepping foot in a library, I recommend a visit. You might be pleasantly surprised!