Re-imagining the civic role of libraries in our technological age is an intriguing subject to me. So, when an article sidebar espouses the innovative ways public libraries have reinvented themselves in order to play a central civic role in their various towns and cities, my ears perk up and my eyes open. I just wanted to pass along Deborah Fallows sidebar article “The Library Card” which appeared in the March 2016 edition of The Atlantic.
The sidebar is embedded in James Fallow’s long-form piece “Can America Put Itself Back Together Again?” concerning how cities and towns across America are reinventing themselves at a local level; this article is a fascinating “how does America look at the ground level”-type feature that I also recommend. But, again, what Deborah wrote in her sidebar really caught my eye: “as we traveled around the U.S. reporting on the revival of towns and cities, we always made the local library an early stop…. The visit to the public library revealed [the city/town’s] heart and soul”. And what this specifically meant was libraries have shifted towards offering access to technology; specifically, in addition to the more typical wi-fi and pc access, libraries have begun to provide access to 3-D printers, laser cutters, and wire benders. Libraries fulfill a role in educating the youngest members of their citizenship by giving care packages to newborns, providing educational materials to teachers, and opening up archives to underline the reality of U.S. history. And lastly, libraries underscore the idea of community by offering classes on citizenship, seed-lending programs, classes concerning conversational English, and more.
The marketing of the library is a topic of our profession I am constantly intrigued by. I am a firm believer in the importance of marketing how libraries have innovatively begun to satisfy patron needs in this technological age, because I am really afraid of public opinion holding libraries are antiquated places full of dusty, old books that nobody looks at anymore. Books, as a format for information, still have their place–don’t get me wrong, but satisfying technological and educational gaps in the citizenry is a compelling and exciting role for libraries to fulfill. As a private law librarian, the correlations are obvious and something I am surrounded by on a daily basis as more-and-more of the professional responsibilities in law librarianship concern reviewing, implementing, and educating users on new software that satisfies the information needs of those in the legal profession.
Long story short: libraries adapt. And when an article comes out espousing this very idea, it’s encouraging to believe that public opinion will adapt as well.