There is no doubt that technology has had a lasting impact on libraries. Once thought to be going the way of traditional bookstores, libraries have rebounded and are thriving in a technology fueled world. With the help of innovation, re-imagination and vision, libraries are embracing new technologies while creating dynamic community centers filled with life. They are no longer a house of dusty books and card files; they are centers of creativity, research and collaboration...and they are free.
Technology has changed the expectations of library patrons; people today expect to be able to find and access information from wherever they are. This is why so many public library systems across the country have increased both computers for use inside the library as well as mobile and online access to e-books, audio books, research databases and archives. In 2010, nearly 300 million Americans used library services including onsite computers and onsite Wi-Fi to check out books, to attend workshops, and to consult with reference librarians.
Libraries are now hubs of technology with over 85 percent offering wireless internet services, and many offering state-of-the-art computers for use. But technology available to patrons does not stop there. Surveys show that currently 12 percent of academic libraries have pre-loaded E-reading devices in circulation that patrons can check out. Another 26 percent of academic libraries are considering adding this service. New (even book-free) libraries are popping up around the country, employing technology in ways most never envisioned:
• GPS apps that help locate material inside the library
• Mobile apps that allow patrons to access library services
• Access to 3-D printers, binding services
• Book delivery robots
The digital age has produced challenges for both libraries and librarians; the sheer volume of information available in e-books, databases, archives and other digital materials has spurred innovation in the organization, management and distribution of library resources. For some time, some believed that just as bookstores and libraries were becoming irrelevant, that librarians would too. However, this could not be further from the truth. Search engines do provide a plethora of information, quickly and easily, but there is no guarantee of the quality of the information.
According to Pew Internet and American Life surveys, 80 percent of Americans believe that "reference librarians" are a very important service in today's libraries. Librarians are still at the forefront of understanding information and research gathering and the education system is adapting to their changing roles. Library and information science degrees have evolved and are now training librarians for leading libraries for this generation, and beyond. Not only are librarians at the forefront of information management and organization, they are administrative and community leaders charging forth to enhance the public's experience inside and outside the library.
A library card today gives more than just access to books and periodicals at the local library; it gives access to the world from home or while on the road. It also gives access to the true visionaries of information organization and dissemination -- librarians, who are more valuable than ever before. While many of the duties and responsibilities of librarians have changed over the years, it is still true that they hold the keys to the best and most relevant information available on the planet.
Libraries today house more than books, and librarians are more than good stewards of materials. Both have morphed and evolved to meet the changing needs of their patrons, by embracing technological advancements. Libraries are still a place filled with information, imagination, and community and librarians are an essential part of the system because of their knowledge, skill and passion. Are libraries and librarians a thing of the past? Absolutely not! Libraries have always been, and will continue to be harbingers for freedom, communication, creativity and advancement, and librarians will continue to bring the information to life for many children, teens and adults alike.