All Public Libraries
For centuries, libraries have been seen as places that house books. This meaning of the word is incorporated within the term “librairie”, which comes from the old French used in the 14th century and which means “book collection”.
An image of dusty stacks always comes to mind when we say the word library. However, as we know, the concept of the book is changing, molding itself to the new technological environment. Consequently, the way we learn is also in a process of mutation.
A new study by the Pew Research Center that focused on who uses libraries in the United States, how often and for what purpose came to some interesting conclusions. That is what we are going to talk about in the following paragraphs.
Library: a term under construction
We start with the main conclusion reached by Pew: people who go to libraries identify themselves as “long term learners” and are more likely to visit a library than those who do not seek to be learning new things regularly. Those using libraries, for example, are more open to pursuing personal learning activities.
But learning does not necessarily mean reading books. Training courses, lectures and videos are methods that also attract people to libraries: didactic activities, lectures or workshops or even listening to music or a film. All of this can happen in the space of a library without necessarily having to pick up a book.
However, to accommodate these different needs – as well as receiving all visitors – libraries in the United States have expanded their purpose to include community events and a space for using the Internet. However, according to Pew’s research, many of the visitors to a library are unaware that these services are available.
In fact, the study points out that while 62% of libraries offer resources related to work and employment, a large proportion of 38% of adults are completely unaware of the existence of this type of service. Likewise, 35% of libraries offer equivalences to higher schools and almost half of adults are unaware that this is the case. The numbers are similar when it comes to programs to support the creation of a new business, online programs to certify a person in a new skill or e – book loan.
With regard to this last point, it is necessary to note that the disparity in services may be related to the fact that reading e-books is not so popular. The effort to read from a screen has been seen as a factor against the difficulty in reading and learning, while the printed book still does not have to deal with such problems.
Still, American librarians who have invested and sought funding for new initiatives may find these numbers strange. According to a response from The Atlantic to the Pew study, more funds can help libraries attract more users, as the number has dropped by about 9% in the United States since 2012. This figure is revealed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which points to a 8.2% reduction in physical visits since a peak in 2009. However, with regard to digital visits, the paradigm may be slightly different.
Since the online systems of libraries do not correctly record online visits, it is impossible to know the scale of this type of consultation. Still, as much as the Internet has revolutionized the way we consult information, many library services continue to be available only on physical media.
To prevent libraries from disappearing altogether, Robinson Meyer – of The Atlantic – points out that “there is empirical evidence that the use follows investment. If libraries receive more public funding, there will be more people using them ”. This makes more sense than it looks. If librarians provide services that visitors really want – invest in resources that can be read, seen and experienced – then increasing visits is just a matter of spreading the word and showing what is available.
The libraries have evolved into much more than houses containing books. Still, the original purpose of these spaces remains and libraries continue to be valued by those who visit them. In order to preserve reading materials, and to promote new forms of knowledge, future visitors first need to understand what a library is for.
Public libraries are non-for-profit libraries that are available to the public. These libraries are generally founded by government, organization or fund that is not intended to generate profit. Meanwhile, public means “of or concerning the people as a whole.” As for library, it refers to a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or refer to.
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