This is an article that I rediscovered today which was published a few months back, but it covers a good chunk of the things I would like to say about libraries in the US today. Things that I’ve had on my mind, and wonder how much people know about. Using information from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, and from the ALA’s State of the Library Report (linked in the image on the right) this article showcases just how much libraries are used in the US. (Spoiler: the answer is A LOT!) As the article states:
“Ironically, the best-kept secret about America’s libraries is that they are wildly, deeply, and incontrovertibly popular. They are as actively used as ever, if not more.“
I think a lot of people forget that libraries are not just book repositories anymore, and in reality, they haven’t been for a very long time.
Libraries today house far more than just books. Most every library now-a-days have computers and most also allow free WiFi access to patrons. I’ve worked in one or two where patrons are able to check out iPads, ereaders like Nooks and Kindles, and even laptops. And of course, I can’t forget e-books. You might be surprised to discover just how many e-books, and electronic audiobooks your library has access to. Many libraries also offer discount tickets to local museums. I’ve seen several who offer book club kits, or educational kits to parents and teachers. Ms. Clark also points out, in her article, one of my favorite new-ish trends: libraries that loan some pretty unusual stuff. (For example: household tools, fishing gear, and even baking equipment!)
And with all those many items being offered for public use, we still haven’t mentioned all the various programs and services that take place at public libraries each year. Everything from regular storytime programs, author visits, and book groups (for children and adults); to LEGO Clubs or Mini-Golf in the Library. Many libraries offer career and technology help for patrons as well. And of course, there is the library staff. Librarians are not only helping patrons locate information in books, but they are essential to helping children, teens, and adults wade through the quagmire of information that is available online.
There is a certain idea of the modern library and how it looks in America and other countries around the world. We tend to forget that this version of the library is not the only one that has ever existed. Libraries, in one form or another, whether for public or private use, have existed almost as long as civilization has been around. The library at Alexandria is one example. The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt had them too. In fact, archeological sites are still digging up libraries that date back more than 5,000 years. The point I’m trying to make here, friends, is that libraries, like people, have evolved to suit the needs of that civilization. Just because new technologies have become available does not mean that our modern library is doomed. It just means its time to adapt to a new model, and of course, there is going to be some argument and dissension over what that new model will look like. I for one, am excited to see where it will go.
As a final note: please remember to support public and school libraries. They really do make our communities and our world better.