Libraries In Our Digital Age I Oxford Open Learning


Libraries In Our Digital Age

In the context of our technologydriven world of Kindles and iPads, it may be difficult to envisage the relevance, and even the viability, of keeping physical public libraries open. Aside from the consideration of operational costs of heating, lighting, paying staff, buying new and replacement books, a pertinent question is: do people actually still want to read physical books, when they have the option of reading their chosen title on an electronic device from the comfort and convenience of their own home?

Libraries Have Adapted

The truth is that we are far from reaching the end of the story for libraries. Although the word ‘library’ might traditionally conjure up an image of endless shelves of dusty books, with readers sitting separately at tables, studying great tomes in silence, contemporary public libraries have unquestionably acknowledged the need to embrace modern technology a need which was only exacerbated by the recent pandemic and resulting lockdowns and have successfully adapted to the digital age. They have employed technological innovations to their advantage, significantly enhancing their offerings and services for libraryusers. As well as being able to renew and reserve books on library websites or portals, readers can in modernday libraries access enewspapers, emagazines, ebooks and other online resources. Libraries now even provide physical technology in the form of PCs and printers, with free WiFi, for use by members who don’t have access to I.T. at home.

Beyond Books

Modern libraries are about far more than providing a free booklending service in many other important ways. They provide a welcoming, inclusive base for community groups for young children, they play an essential role in encouraging children to enjoy reading through competitions, summer reading schemes and the hosting of school visits, and they run I.T. and other training courses for adults. They also serve as a friendly, accessible connection with the local community for older people, and act as a comprehensive source of local information for
residents, offering additional services such as the renewal of blue badges, parking permits and bus passes.

Libraries Can Still Compete

For some, reading online will, quite simply, never replace the pleasure of browsing library bookshelves, flicking through the first few pages of a book and being inspired to try a new author, then curling up at home with a hard copy book. Ereaders have been available since the late 1990s, yet our libraries are still going, providing a myriad of services to local communities in addition to their traditional loaning function.

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