In the Digital Age, What Becomes of the Library?

Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm Centrum / HU BerlinA recent Pew Internet study on parents, reading and libraries supports Oliver’s sentiment, showing the library’s traditional purpose – providing free reading material – is also its most popular: the main reason most parents (87 percent) go to libraries is to get books for their kids.

But will that be changing? While no one would disagree that libraries should promote literacy, it’s hard to deny that the tech revolution is changing both how people consume books and the ways libraries present their offerings to parents and children: in some libraries, a student can download an ebook online, use a phone app to locate reference material, make stuff in designated “maker spaces,”  take DIY classes, or have a meeting at a community multi-use space. The Nashville library is currently using a MacArthur grant to create a Learning Lab where teens will be able to record music, write stories and more – a free space filled with equipment, as Oliver put it, “to create content, not just consume it.”

In a related Pew study on libraries and the Internet, one librarian told researchers, “I believe public libraries should move away from being ‘houses of knowledge’ and move more towards being ‘houses of access.’ This is what the public is asking for and we are here to serve them.” Beyond the use of technology, many librarians think in terms of access and information being closely linked, and believe that libraries still have a responsibility to both.

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June 3rd, 2013 by