One might think, with libraries being a free service and all, that there’s no incentive to really cater to the people who frequent it. Yet—and thank goodness—people usually feel the exact opposite. Libraries, part of the essential infrastructure of any community, should meet the needs of its people and provide a valuable service to those who walk through its doors. A poorly attended library does no good to the community at large.
As times have changed, so have libraries. I remember having to go to the library as a kid to use the computer because we didn’t have one at home, and they were just so fast! Now the majority of homes have their own computer or tablet and have some form of high-speed internet. My mom was the queen of the card catalog (sorry Mom if I just basically outed you as a dinosaur) but now everything is a type and click digital search on a computer. People went from having to sift through pages and pages of newspapers to spools of microfiche to electronic searches. Technology has made information easier and more accessible—where before it would have taken volumes and volumes of heavy encyclopedias and atlases that rapidly went out of date to give people information, we now have the whole internet to offer to our patrons. And you don’t even need to give them all a computer station. Many people are happy with free Wi-Fi for their own devices, and in the long run, it is a cost-effective measure too.
Nowadays, libraries are more like community centers than dark, musty halls of knowledge. They offer a huge variety of meeting rooms, classes, and services, in addition to a wealth of materials to the community. It is the job of the library to adapt and change to continue to be relevant for its patrons. In this day and age, it means going above and beyond a book. For example, do you have an event that you don’t get the high turnout you should? Have you tried to promote it on your website or on a digital sign near the street? What about social media? Your community can be reached in so many ways, you just have to know where they are looking for information.
I went to a conference where one library employee in a neighboring state was talking about people weren’t utilizing their ebooks. The head librarian was surprised, as they had a wonderful selection and ebooks available for borrowing to make it even more appealing. They decided to display the e-readers right next to the bestsellers in the front of the library and BOOM. Now they have a waitlist for the readers, and their digital book borrowing has tripled. It was something so simple that brought more awareness to a feature, despite the library’s best intentions, continued to go unnoticed.
There are so many opportunities for libraries to serve their communities, and with the rapid developments in technology, there will be ways that you can reach new patrons and light their path in learning.