It is no secret that libraries play a vital role in society’s collective growth and educational experience. In recent years, libraries have made huge progress by adapting to the ongoing needs of communities, thus reinforcing their key role and importance. But are they going to stay relevant in the future? How can they continue to be a social central element as digital dominance continues?

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About the libraries’ role and how it shifted

Libraries represent different things for different people and even though library usage has declined during the years, they are still a popular and important place.

Libraries are more than a center for stocking books and periodicals- they are a society’s nuclear point that connects social and cultural events, educational resources, and a foster spot for the marginalized. People come to watch movies, use printing services, or participate in book, mathematics, or debate clubs. Moreover, a lot of visitors bring their laptops and work on projects and different work-related tasks.

In the early 2000’s the future of libraries was predicted to be non-existent. However, libraries have done a great job by adapting and leveraging their mission of providing everyone with access to information and matching it with society’s needs.

About the modernization of libraries

Some libraries have upgraded their services by including digital tools and devices to be more appealing to potential visitors and satisfy the returning visitors. Examples of digital devices and tools that are include at these libraries are e-books, e-readers, computers, tablets, and Wi-fi. All of which were a crucial step to becoming more modern and allowing easy access to digital information.

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Libraries help everyone

Furthermore, libraries are universal centers that provide access to information to anyone, and everyone. Equal access to everyone is a core value of libraries; thus, it includes helping individuals from all different backgrounds and equal opportunity for self-education or personal development.

Libraries can specifically help communities and individuals in need. The ability to offer visitors access to the internet and devices such as public computers helps both individuals and communities to expand their knowledge and improve their skill sets.  Statistically, public libraries have had a significant impact on the lives of people in need; three-quarters of the people who check out the library hotspots live in households earning less than $25,000 a year.

Workspace

Public libraries also serve as a free space where you can meet with your team or go on your own to work on projects, read or watch movies. The relaxing and neutral furnishing is appealing to visitors which makes it easy for them to want to spend their time in the library and use the library spaces. Thus, the public library is not only full of beneficial and free informational resources but also a free workspace.

Libraries in Demand

Even though society’s rate of change is extremely fast and astonishing, there is a future for public libraries. They will continue to be relevant and in demand in the future since statistics have shown that they are still significant centers for a community; It was found that visiting the library is the “most common cultural activity Americans engage in by far.” In 2019, US adults reported taking an average of 10.5 trips to the library, a frequency that exceeded their participation in eight other common leisure activities”. Using these statistics as a back-up, libraries will continue to be important in terms of the ability to obtain accurate information, have access to free workspaces, as well as access to social and cultural events. Libraries will continue to transition from a center of information to a center of culture thus they will not only serve as an information center but also provide visitors with a calming workspace, e-tools, workshops and more.

Since public libraries have done such an excellent job at adapting their services and offerings during the past decade, then they will be able to continuously change and adapt to the COVID-19 circumstances currently at hand. Librarians have adapted to a “new normal” and have faced many restrictions to their normal tasks such as one-on-one interactions and to new tasks such as reducing the touchpoints within the library.

Despite these challenges, weekly e-book lending across the United States has increased nearly 50 percent since March 9, even as some libraries remain physically closed, which means that libraries are efficiently coping with the ongoing circumstances. Moreover, public libraries responded to the crisis in a creative way: several book festivals and events have gone online! The world’s largest library—Washington, D.C.’s Library of Congress—will hold its 20th annual National Book Festival virtually from September 25 to 27.

How can libraries continue to adapt and stay relevant in the future?

To continue to stay relevant, libraries should be flexible and address the new needs and challenges that might arise. An article about the present and future of libraries suggests the need for creating makerspaces or workshops where library visitors can work on projects and collaborations. It is important to focus on providing the library visitors and patrons with spaces where they can freely work on their personal projects or work-related tasks. Thus, encourage the usage of your workspaces and establish lounges or renovate spaces that would be used as creative working spots.

Other ways to stay relevant would be create relevant workshops/courses for children, students, adults, and all library visitors.

Another suggestion would be to make libraries more active and accessible online which will help with raising awareness to the community about the resources available to them. This can be done easily using social media channels. It is key to connect with society through digital channels and remind everyone of the core values that a library upholds. A simple but effective plan would be for public libraries to engage and post on their SoMe channels about their services and how they can benefit and help their community. This would enable stronger connections with their communities, thus more potential and returning visitors. Similarly, many librarians reinforced the need for available e-books, tablets, and e-readers. Therefore, another step to stay relevant is to continue keeping your library up to date with digital literature resources and make sure to include more tablets, e-books, e-readers in your services, if you did not have the chance yet.

We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!

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Madalina Chelaru

Madalina is a content writer for the Princh Library Blog. Princh, which is a printing solution designed specifically for and with public libraries, makes a consistent effort to provide advocacy for libraries and library professionals. The Princh Blog discusses library specific topics that inform their readers of library trends, insights, technologies and more.

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