Libraries Are Still Relevant in Modern Times

August 14, 2015

9:00 pm

Did you know smoking used to be allowed in libraries? Since banning smoking, the downfall started and now libraries are nearly a thing of the past. And for more false beliefs of modern libraries, visit a local branch today.

With so much information available on the internet, libraries are seen as stuffy, antiquated places where people used to go to borrow books. However, modern libraries are still the most significant centers of any community.

 

A World of Resources

While methods of doing business change, basic human needs don’t change. Humans, particularly of advanced societies, have an immense, unending need for information. Libraries have always provided unfiltered access to information and, for that reason alone, nearly three million Americans still use more than 120,000 libraries nationwide.

Most adults today can recall pre-internet days when there was a thing called the card catalog. Cards in the catalog contained metadata about the topic being researched. Internet surfers today access topics in search engines using a Boolean-type logic that filters through the metadata much like libraries used in card catalogs and into the dawn of the computer era. Instead of a big wooden box, a mainframe somewhere in the universe serves as the database.

In other words, the internet and the library are compatriots in the fight to save the world. Think of the library as a central point of contact, not as a building but as an information source. That information comes in a multitude of ways.

An online or phone request can have a given material on hold for a patron within a matter of hours. Many libraries have apps that can direct patrons exactly to the desired item within the building. However, it’s not just dusty old books that can be found in a modern library.

  • Magazines/Newspapers: Every library has subscriptions to various periodicals, including research journals, magazines, and sometimes even tabloids. Being that most magazines are abandoning the print format, digital versions are can still be accessed in most cases.
  • Books: Bound books like the last several hundred years are still common and many latest releases, complete with covers to crack and pages to sniff, are updated on library shelves daily.  For example, the new Ta-Nehisi Coates book is available at the Boise library. If the hold time is too long, it is also available immediately in three different electronic formats.
  • E-Books: The books of the present are available in most libraries along with e-readers to be checked out. Titles available are almost limitless. Suffice it to say, if a patron wants to read something, they can most likely check it out in e-format today.
  • CDs/DVDs/Electronic Media: Movies, music and all kinds of entertainment has been available for a long time. Bigger libraries obviously have bigger collections. The Boise library has music for every interest, from gospel to doom metal to even a large selection of local music. That means the new Built to Spill CD is on the shelf with the rest of the band’s releases dating back to the 1990s. As time goes on, these will undoubtedly be available in other listening and/or viewing formats.
  • Wireless Internet/Computer Access: Since the dial-up modem days, libraries have been host to internet workstations. Whether job searching, file sharing, checking email, or playing on social media, libraries have always been connected. Patrons can also take their own computers or phones for instant, free access.

That is all just the beginning. If a patron’s imagination is bigger than the library, most libraries have an extensive interlibrary loan system. Libraries also have study rooms, conference rooms, event hosting facilities and equipment such as projectors and other electronic items available for patrons. Perhaps the most special feature are community message boards. If an event is going on in town, find out about it at the local library.

The Role of Librarians

As Rutgers University professor Marc Ronson points out, a librarian “is a manager, a technologist, an investigator, a technologist, an explorer, a curator, and a creator.” Where else but a library can you find someone who does so much at no charge to you the consumer?

The Davinci Institute gives a short history of library collections and what the future holds. It is clear that technology used for communication is always changing. Like the dial phone from the 1940s bears no resemblance to today’s phones, today’s phones will be unrecognizable tomorrow. If data overload seems bad now, just wait. Not only will information be incomprehensibly expansive compared to 2015’s internet, but the searches to find that information will be much more complicated.

Patrons already have a hard time finding information, such that simply asking Google to solve problems isn’t always enough. Librarians are on top of the latest trends and can quickly find information. Whatever technology becomes embraced, it is sure that libraries will remain at the forefront of keeping information accessible.

Nothing will be off limits. Libraries’ missions are to offer a beacon of diversity. The goal is to remain cutting edge and serve the interests of the public with free access to knowledge and community forums. Libraries will continue to evolve and the frequent patrons will be ahead of the curve on keeping up with information technology of the future. They will hold the key to human livelihood for the remainder of the 21st century.

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Daniel is a freelance writer and observationist, graduate of Linguistics, former English teacher and failed comedian. He has also worked in university libraries and pysch units. His interests include mindfulness, poverty and underground music of the Pacific Northwest. He is an ardent champion of free form, terrestrial radio and is a DJ at Radio Boise.

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