Libraries are not just about books anymore. A lot of people are using the library for technology use. The current economic climate has made the public library, the only place for people who can’t afford internet services at home; to be able to surf the web, check email, look for a job, and connect with loved ones. Libraries have become the one of the biggest providers of free computing service to the public. Nowadays, people visit the library for a number of reasons-books, newspapers, magazines, archives, internet, games, music movies, small group meetings, study, work on projects etc.
So how does the modern library look like? What types of technology services can help a library attract more usage? How do we attract kids, especially teenagers to the library? The new generation is extremely tech savvy. They are quick to learn and use new technology. Libraries need to anticipate the changing needs of library patrons. They need make it cool for kids to visit the library, study, read, listen to music, work on projects etc. Many libraries have recognized the growing demand and need for technology services. According to an article in Tulsa World, “Libraries use technology to connect with iPod generation”, a growing number of libraries are launching mobile websites and smart-phone applications and are tweeting, texting and launching smart-phone apps to connect with the tech savvy younger crowd. Providing online services also point to technology as a cheaper means to boost circulation.”
Another important facet of the new generation is their increasing need for content creation. As evidenced by the tremendous popularity of You Tube, facebook, and tumblr. The younger generation is very open to expressing their thoughts and creativity through blogs, music videos, photos etc. The idea that a library can be a two way street; for content consumption and as well as content creation, fosters new collaboration between the library and the user. Providing spaces and technology tools for people to meet, collaborate, and create content will encourage more people, especially teenagers to use the library, leading to an increased sense of belonging and attachment.
In her brief--Checking Out the Future: Perspectives from the Library Community on Information Technology and 21st-Century Libraries; published by the American Library Association‘s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), author Jennifer C. Hendrix writes:
“The effort to reach teen audiences in particular is often considered a barometer for how adaptable public libraries will be in the future—embracing new while maintaining ties with traditional users………Libraries and users can and will collaborate on library blogs, content for library websites, and online and in-person services. Investing in this type of collaboration will encourage library administrators to focus on providing the content and services users want as opposed to what librarians think users need. And no form of collaboration will be more important than eliciting constant, effective feedback from library users, as well as those who currently do not use libraries.”
Here is a partial list of technology based services, I think that a pubic library needs to provide to attract more patrons and increase usage:
- Internet services (almost all of the nation’s public libraries already provide free internet services for the public)
- Video conferencing--have small meeting rooms/spaces for video conferencing where patrons chat and talk with loved ones, attend webinars, job interviews, etc. It is also a great way for book club members to connect to their favorite authors.
- Spaces, tools and offerings designed to poster content creation and collaboration.
- Interactive website incorporating contemporary technologies that not only provide standard features like searchability, lists of current and past checked out items, blogs, but also the ability for community members to submit original content, feedback in discussion forums etc.
- Safe environment for kids to access internet, play Wii and Xbox 360
- Digitize archives that are searchable online
- Books on e-readers