In an age of Amazon Primes free 2 day shipping option and the vast availability of ebooks for phones, tablets, and computers, it may seem easy for some to forget about public libraries. Access to books and information is easier than ever as long as you have a computer or smart phone and an Internet connection. So, what does that mean for libraries? Are they necessary in the 21st century or will they become obsolete in the near future?
Libraries are not just for bibliophiles. In fact, a 2014 study from the Pew Research Center shows that the majority of people who frequent libraries are also big technology users. The study shows that life events, such as job hunting and starting college, prompt visits to the library for research. Libraries offer a wide variety of resources and technology for K-12 students and adults, meaning that librarians must stay up to date in all formats and be able to meet the demands of the 21st century learner. How do librarians keep up?
Christy Comeaux, the public information officer at the Calcasieu Parish Public Library, explains how librarians stay current in a world that is always changing. "The librarian has evolved quite a bit over the last 50, even 20 years. With the explosion of technology, especially hand held computers such as smartphones and tablets, today’s librarian must be able to multi-task these new duties as well as the traditional duties. For example, you can still ask a librarian to recommend a great book to read, but you now have the option of signing up for our newsletter ‘SelectReads’ and have suggestions emailed to you!”
Librarian assistance doesn’t stop at the circulation desk. "Many branches have tech days where patrons who have questions about their mobile devices or computers can find the answers from library staff. We also now offer the ‘Book a Librarian’ program at the Central branch where patrons can come by the library and receive one on one help with a librarian.”
The Calcasieu Parish Public Libraries offer a vast amount of technology for patrons to use in addition to a multitude of classes available for all ages. Comeaux says libraries "have all sorts of programs, ranging from the always popular craft programs, to informational programs such as computer classes and Makerspace programs.”
Many of the library branches in Calcasieu parish have Teen Advisory Groups (TAB) who assist librarians in planning future programs. Teens identify what they like and don’t like, and librarians use that information to create successful teen programs. "Recently, a group of teens at Central Library made blankets which were donated to cancer patients at local hospitals. So not only are we offering creative programming, but also teaching kids to be proactive in their communities and to help out.”
In addition, they offer technology-rich classes for younger patrons. "Just recently we held coding classes for kids where they could learn the basics of writing code and develop their own version of the ‘Flappy Bird’ game.”
In regards to education, public libraries offer many ways to support K-12 students. "We circulate about 20,000 kids’ books every month and provide online tutoring and homework help via HomeworkLA.com, a part of Tutor.com. We also provide over 50 various research outlets online and in the library, ranging from language learning to historical maps to career guidance. One of our more popular research starters is ‘Learning Express’ where patrons can learn computer skills, take a GRE, GED, HISET or TASC practice test, learn more about college entrance exams, and so much more!”
Is there an end in sight for public libraries? Comeaux doesn’t think so. "I personally think that if society ever rids themselves of libraries, that society will be doomed.” After learning what the library has to offer, it’s easy to agree with her. "Libraries can provide something that a computer cannot: a sense of security. That is why libraries will never be obsolete.”
Download the Calcasieu Parish Library app onto your smartphone and have access to the library on the go! http://www.calcasieulibrary.org/libmobileapp