Thursday, July 5, 2012
It seems that libraries are going through growing pains at the moment. The one piece of technology that seemed to be light years away from reality has become a reality. It never seemed possible that books would be replaced with sterile, flat screen computers that are almost as light as air. Yet they have put publisher, writers and libraries in a curious position. All three groups want to get the published works into the hands of readers but how to make this possible without leaving anyone behind in the digital age has become quite a challenge. The e-readers have made their mark on libraries in noticeable ways. However, it may be the "barely noticeable" habits that have a longer and more lasting effect in our libraries. The transitioning from paper to digital format is beginning to take hold. What seems to be most surprising are the users of ereaders. One might guess that younger library users are hooked on the eraders. Not necessarily. In many cases the older patron (40 and above) like the devices because they can manipulate the size of the text, the tablets are lighter and the screens often are brighter than some pages of printed books. Surprising even still is that it's not just the techie geek males that are attracted to the device. In surveys, it is found that women prefer them more than their male counterparts. Pew Institute conducted a survey on libraries, ereaders and patrons not too long ago. What they found was that the majority of library users did not know that their library had That in itself is not a surprise. When thinking of a library "brand" people automatically think of a book. Why? Ever since Guttenburg developed the "printed" book in mass production the library has offered the books a place on their bookshelves. Is this image ingrained in the public's mind to the point that it will harm future growth of the library? Not necessarily. Three was a time not too long ago that patrons were saying the Internet will eliminate the need for the library. Quite the opposite has become the reality. If libraries are to remain open and librarians want to continue in the profession, the need for marketing the digital resources that the library can make available to the community must be stepped up a notch. Not only that, librarians must be prepared to become techie gurus. Digital devices are testing the boundaries of traditional publishing theory. The conventional way for a new author to get their works published is to write the manuscript, sell teh manuscript and wait for critics' review of the work. In today's world of eraders, anyone can write, publish and promote their own tome. Some are very successful at this while others scramble for an audience. In either case, libraries know have the opportunity to explore new authors and talents that they might have never been privy to meeting just a few short years ago. This is also a great opportunity for avid readers to discover new talents too. Frankly, it is a win win situation. These are just a few of the barely noticeable changes in libraries due to the ereaders. What happens from point on remains to be be unfolded. However, one thing for certain is the libraries role has not changed. It is still viewed as the place where people will go to get information. What will change is the format in which that information is provided. Every single survey on this topic points to the "readiness" of the library to embrace the technological change. However, what is lacking is the funding to keep up with the high costs of digital. That will remain to be a challenge for libraries to overcome.