I’ve heard this said before about today’s libraries, but I believe it’s a blanket statement about yesterday’s library. Today’s library isn’t the quiet dark place of yesteryear staffed by bespectacled librarians in cardigans who live to “shush” their patrons and stamp books (although I do love a nice cardigan). It’s become a virtual space with ebooks, online magazines and audio books available right from your home computer or device with a click of a button. Most libraries are staying current and keeping up with these changing “techy” times.
At the same time your not-so-dark and not-so-quiet local library has become a destination: a place to go, meet up with friends, participate in a Smash Brothers Brawl tournament after school, a place to study in a quiet study room, listen to story times with your child, watch a movie, or connect with people and devices alike. In a very real sense, today’s library has become a community center. No longer is a library just a place to check out books and be on your way. (Those yesteryear librarians never did like loitering, did they?)
In the seven years I’ve worked at BCL, I’ve noticed a marked change in how the library is used. Instead of lines of kids signing up for the computers after school, I see both kids and adults lounging by the fireplace area and in cozy corners using their various devices for gaming, connecting with their peers, and yes checking out our ebooks! We show adults walking in with their shiny new kindles how to download our audio and e-books. During the day there are adults who come in and do their work via our free wi-fi. Our library work tables become their virtual desks. It’s exciting to see the library being used in so many different ways, whether it’s browsing books “old school” style on the shelves, or using a device to download the latest issue of “Good Housekeeping.” Another “virtual” bonus is that you don’t even have to purchase anything to use our wi-fi. Bagels and coffee, anyone?
There are still plenty of adults and children who use our desktop computers on a daily basis to complete homework, keep up on social networking, surf the web, print out documents, update their drivers’ licenses, etc. They have that option, and can choose from many more.
Our library today is a place where there are lots of choices for everyone, whether or not they choose to “plug in” to the virtual world of ebooks, iPads and smart phones. It’s the place to be! There are a lot of patrons young and old who absolutely don’t want to read a book on any type of device. They want to check out a “real” book and feel the pages between their fingers. Thank goodness! Because I still really love stamping books…