Libraries have evolved to include and increase access to technology
I'd be a wealthy woman if I had a dime for every person who asks me: "Aren't libraries obsolete now that we have Amazon and the internet?"
If you were to ask me this at a party, be prepared for my lengthy lecture on why public libraries continue to be cornerstones of society. Since you're reading this in a limited-length newspaper column, I'm going to focus on one theme: Public libraries are not made obsolete by technology, instead we evolve our services to include and increase access to technology.
Last month, I wrote about how libraries such as ours are working to remove barriers of all types. In Crook County, we experience "the digital divide," a situation that is unfortunately too common in rural areas of the United States. It's easy to assume that reliable Wi-Fi internet connections should be as available as any other public utility, but it's not that simple (yet!) Our new loanable technology kits allow library cardholders to check out Wi-Fi hotspots along with laptop computers or tablets; these hotspots bring connectivity to outlying areas and help bridge that digital divide.
Whenever a friend gushes about the great new audiobook they found on Audible or another paid subscription service, I enthusiastically recommend the services provided to library card holders by Libby, an app that gives free access to collections of audio books, eBooks, and even magazines. Instead of sitting idly by while the Audibles of the world cash in on traditional library offerings, the field of librarianship has adapted and evolved.
Prior to the pandemic, public librarians joined other educators in offering technology-based programming under the umbrella of STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. Young people were taking classes in computer coding, mastering the fine points of stop-motion animation, and playing with robotics. When we shift our mindset to see public libraries as community centers and members of the greater educational ecosystem, we find endless opportunities for wrapping technology into our mission.
Technology is also what allows public libraries to offer newspapers and research materials to card holders via our databases. If you are interested in a topic but print materials are hard to locate, a database opens the world of information. Along with the tech-based coaching that comes with learning how to search an academic source are the larger lessons of information literacy. In a world where mixed messages bombard us daily, librarians can help patrons learn how to identify reliable sources of accurate and unbiased information.
Not sure how to use all this great technology? We are here to help! The library offers one-on-one technology assistance sessions where one of our librarians will spend time with you to figure out your new smartphone, how to post to social media sites, or how to find and use all those great eBooks I mentioned. Technology is not the death knell to libraries that some might believe- instead, it has become a crucial tool in providing the services our community needs.
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