Libraries: At the Forefront of Digital Life
Libraries: At the Forefront of Digital Life

Haven’t Computers Replaced Libraries?

I Mean, Who Even Goes to Libraries Anymore?

My name is Rachel Burt and I’m a Youth Services Librarian at the Sussex County Library in Sussex County New Jersey.  I know what you’re thinking (because people ask me this all the time): “Wow, do people still use libraries?”  The answer, which you might not be expecting, is YES.  What’s even more mind-boggling is the demographic that is making the most use of public libraries.  Millennials!  That’s right – the group of people accused of ruining everything from cable tv to marmalade are–thankfully–helping to keep libraries relevant.  A Pew Research Center survey from Fall 2016 found that 53% of Millennials (those ages 18 to 35 at the time) say they used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months. That compares with 45% of Gen Xers and 43% of Baby Boomers.

What’s So Fab About Libraries?

The relative popularity of libraries among Millennials could be related to the many changes that public libraries have undergone in the last 20 years.  Previous Pew Research Center surveys have documented how extensively people use computers and internet connections at libraries, as well as how interested they are in extra services such as literacy programs for young children, meeting spaces for community groups, and technology “petting zoos” that provide opportunities to explore 3-D printers and other tech gadgetry.  Many adults who haven’t used the library in ages probably don’t realize how much digital content is available free of charge.  With the use of a (free) library card, users have access to downloadable e-books, e-audiobooks, digital magazines, and a wide variety of research databases, all of which can be accessed from a mobile device.  Some libraries even offer TV and movie streaming services using a platform called Kanopy.

How Can Libraries Continue to Stay Relevant?

One of our many responsibilities as Librarians is continuing to find ways to remain relevant and stay up to date with current trends.  This is important not just for the services and programs that we offer, but it’s also an idea that governs how we communicate with our communities.  Most libraries these days have a voice on at least one, but often many, social media platforms.  At the Sussex County Library, we’ve just started experimenting with Facebook Live as a way to engage our users.  My staff and I have successfully broadcasted two storytime programs for children and parents and have gotten a lot of positive feedback.  We realized that it is a new way to engage parents who may not necessarily be visiting the library, but might take the trip now that we’ve shown a little bit more of what we provide.

If you haven’t visited your local library in years, do yourself a favor and stop in.  You may be pleasantly surprised by what it has to offer!