homepage logo

Libraries evolving with technology

By Staff | Dec 31, 2010

In the survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation’s CARAVAN poll, three out of four American adults own a computer.

In everyday life the technology has replaced nearly everything individuals used to do face-to-face.

One of the places where computers have made a difference is in libraries.

If someone had a paper to write decades ago, he would go to the library. Once there, he would look through the card catalog for books on the topic he was going to write about.

But today someone would sit at a computer and look up the information online. What used to be a half-day of research could now be done literally in minutes.

Hali Taylor, director of the Shepherdstown Public Library, in an email interview said that the computer age has altered the way the libraries are used.

“We got our first computers in the early ’90s. After some initial resistance on the part of some patrons, they have now become indispensable for librarians and patrons alike,” she said.

The impacts of computer technology on organizational change in public libraries have changed the way people use libraries.

According to an American Library Association report, over the past 15 to 20 years, public access computers have been introduced into public libraries of all sizes. Once these computers were connected to the Internet, the computers attracted new readers who had not used the public library services before.

But there are a few downsides to computers in the libraries.

One of the biggest is when the computer goes down. This can cause a back up of people trying to get information on books that are no longer available.

Books are now checked in and out on the computer. If a glitch comes up, this information is lost.

“Computers can also be very frustrating for librarians and patrons when they don’t function properly or are down, because we have come to rely so heavily upon them,” Taylor said.

Another downside to having computers in libraries is that there is less face-to-face time with the readers.

“As with all new technology, there are a few downsides,” Taylor said. “While they allow patrons to be very independent, they reduce the face-to-face time with patrons, making it more of a challenge to understand readers’ likes and dislikes and to recommend books one of our most important jobs.”

Readers who come to libraries to use computers do not take time to look at new books or even walk among the stacks.

“They afford access to lots of information about the book itself, including synopses, reviews and position in a series, but they also discourage browsing along the shelves and the serendipity of finding something you weren’t even looking for,” Taylor said.

In the next generation or two, if not now, there will be children growing up that never used a card catalog or even seen or touched a real book. It will all be on the computer.

“They’re here to stay, and as they evolve, so will libraries. Librarians are information specialists. While the delivery format may change with new technological developments, public libraries will continue to provide free access to information to anyone who desires it,” Taylor said.