Has technology killed the public library? No technology hasn’t killed the public library– In fact, it has enabled a reimagination and transformation to learning communities, to supporting citizens and further developing as a digital and social equaliser.
For centuries librarians have been busy with the role of their library buildings as portals to information, print and then digital. In addition to free Wi-Fi, laptops and computers libraries play an essential role in advancing digital literacy, many offer formal or informal digital literacy programmes and provide classes or informal help related to coding/computer programming, robotics, and 3D printing. More and more are making technology such as 3D printers, virtual reality headsets accessible. Libraries are still that rare space enabling access to older, but often essential technologies (e.g., copy machines, printers, and fax machines) still needed by many people. Recently and even more so post-covid we know they are about time for people and spaces, for community building.
Changes to meet community need in public libraries across the world are amazing. In the fabulous Central branch in Memphis, ukulele flash mobs materialize and seniors dance the fox trot in upstairs rooms. The library hosts U.S. naturalization ceremonies, job fairs, financial literacy seminars, jazz concerts, cooking classes, film screenings and many other events—more than 7,000 at last count. You can check out books and movies, to be sure, but also sewing machines, bicycle repair kits and laptop computers.
Technology will continue to help libraries to stay relevant and free staff up for what really matters and that is the “people stuff”. Growing and developing inclusive, free, healthy, fun learning places to visit with the family!
Technological advancements like the SOLUS Library app, the ability to self-serve on personal phones and a fabulous new innovative discovery platform are gamechangers. They not only change the public’s perception of the library service, they make more staff time for that crucial interaction with patrons, for informal learning and family programmes.
That technology means staff can programme and plan and have time for the quality interactions that matter not the drudgery of issue and return. Technology like that gives staff time to address community development and issues like loneliness, health, and wellbeing. Time to enable creativity, develop as entrepreneurial hubs for start-ups and budding innovators.
There are endless, everyday wonderful stories of how a teen night at a library helped youth with volunteer opportunities, how a job seeker gets position a job after help from library staff. A young pregnant mother seeking information about babies …… endless stories combatting loneliness.
Has technology killed the public library? No technology hasn’t killed the public library, it has freed it up for the people and spaces stuff and any library, able to invest more time in people will never outlive its value to the community it serves. We need to get better at telling people and technology will help us.
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