Throughout the history of human civilization, libraries have played an important role and have had enormous cultural, scientific, and academic value. Libraries have traditionally been centers of learning, hubs where knowledge can be disseminated. In the days before long-range communication, it was our libraries that played host to the latest advances in our understanding of the world around us.
The advent of electronic communications has meant that we can now send knowledge from any point on the Earth to any other, almost instantaneously, and therefore libraries have had to adapt in order to fulfill new roles and make the most of the advances in our technologies. All around the world, libraries are continuing to play a fundamental role in educating the population, but they are also serving an increasing range of other functions.
E-readers and e-books have changed the way that many people consume literature and they have also brought many benefits and opportunities to libraries. In particular, children and young people have eagerly embraced digital reading technology and, regardless of how anyone feels about e-readers, they make reading more accessible to young people and anything that encourages more children to start reading has to be a good thing! Because e-books don’t require any physical space within the library, they are free to offer as many titles as they like to customers and there is no limit on how many people can borrow e-books at any one time. Since libraries began instituting digital lending schemes, most have found that they are able to offer a much more diverse range of titles. This is because they don’t have to consider shelf space with digital titles.
Most Americans are now fortunate enough to have decent internet connectivity within their own homes, but for those that don’t or whose service has been interrupted, libraries are a lifesaver. Libraries themselves now often have very good internet connection speeds and coupled with the range of educational and non-fiction titles they keep on their shelves, they make perfect studying locations free of distractions. Making these resources easily available to the general population is an important part of the ongoing battle to make education available to everyone equally, regardless of economic or social status.
Now that information is widely and easily available online, it is arguably becoming harder to convince people that they need an entire book dedicated to a subject. While the internet is, of course, an excellent learning resource, information posted on the internet won’t have been through the same stringent checks that would occur for print media. To continue to entice people in and justify their continued existence, libraries will need to continue to embrace technology and the focus is likely to shift soon towards providing an environment similar to that of a university library. To this end, libraries are increasingly on the lookout to hire those with a library science degree, as graduates who hold a library science degree, whether it’s from a campus university or an online master of information program, will have a solid understanding of how to run and operate a library in order to maximize its usefulness.
Libraries continue to be an important part of the academic and cultural landscape of most countries. They are a resource to be treasured and one that we must fight to protect.