The present and future of libraries
People who say that libraries are dying out are most probably those who just remember the libraries of their childhood. In that sense we can say that, yes they are dying, but that’s only part of the whole truth. The thing is that libraries are evolving into something more complex than what we were used to in the past. The library of today is not the library of our childhood and I’m really sure that libraries we see now will certainly not be like those we will be seeing in 20 years from now.
New tasks for librarians
Libraries are expanding what they actually do and what they lend people, in an effort to reach both older and younger people. I used to work as a librarian for a couple of years and my job back then, about 20 years ago, was rather simple compared to how things are now. Today librarians help people visiting their libraries with book searches, they teach them computer skills and even show them how e-readers and tablets work and how they can read e-books. In fact, I would say that libraries today are less about what they have for people and more about what they really do for them.
When I was working as a librarian in the 90’s I would be asked from time to time maybe how to spell a word or some question related to grammar or syntax. Nowadays librarians need to be far more qualified and tech-savvy since they also act like teachers, researchers, or counselors. This is more or less obligatory since future of libraries are mostly digital now and this particular job has eventually changed much in relation to what was going on in the past.
Libraries embracing new media and sources
I’ve seen modern libraries use Facebook, internet chat rooms and forums to communicate and interact with people. For example, they tell readers to list their favorite books and recent books they read and liked, and they also suggest books on several genres.
Libraries also have a long history of using new media for sharing information. For example, over the time they have used records, video tapes, CDs, DVDs and the internet of course. For years now they provide their patrons with computers so that they can access all those new, digital sources. They were also one of the first to embrace the internet from the beginning. In my time there was not much going on in the internet, but the library I was working back then was one of the few spots in town one could surf online. Actually you could find very few books and magazines online but things changed radically in the years that followed.
Many libraries now, and in the near future, will offer their services over the internet. A lot of books have been digitized and are offered as e-books to those who are interested to read them. Therefore, they do not need to visit the place physically but just have access to a computer with an internet connection. The variety of e-books is growing as more books and volumes are added to the list of available titles, while more e-book databases and servers are created.
Economic recession helps libraries survive
Another aspect that few would ever imagine is that the economic recession seems to effect traditional libraries in a positive way. How is that possible? Up until recently the popularity of libraries was decreasing year by year in Greece, following the global trend. Nevertheless, recently things changed. This decrease has almost stopped in these economically challenging times we are all facing, especially in Greece. People have much less available income to afford to buy books and magazines or digital media like CDs and DVDs.
Therefore, since libraries become lenders of a variety of useful items a lot of people use them more. In addition, libraries that are public in Greece provide free internet access to everybody, especially to those student and general population who cannot afford an internet connection at home anymore. The number of those people is constantly getting bigger and bigger, so is the popularity of libraries. I’m not sure if the same applies to other countries but it’s certainly a fact in the country I live.