I don’t think there are many that would argue with the notion that reading is important.
For the young, it helps with the developmental process, honing those vital English skills that are of the utmost importance. For the older people, it’s a relaxing hobby that acts as a perfect counter to the increasing amount of bright screens that are dulling our vision.
Traditionally, all the books we read were rented and borrowed from public or school libraries. These are valuable, free resources that provide citizens with a wealth of knowledge and entertainment at no cost. But as books slowly turn into e-books and the world goes digital, do these public spaces still have a place in our society?
The answer, believe it or not, is yes – though it’s not that cut and dry. In order to stay relevant and keep up with the times, libraries themselves must evolve. And fortunately, we’re already seeing changes that can help to keep them around.
Firstly, let’s look at the purpose of a library. When they were first conceived, the idea was to provide the public with thousands of novels that would be otherwise hard to find. This drew in much custom, and until most books were made available online, was a library’s USP.
But now, things are different. Besides focusing on the books, libraries have to offer slightly more. Some public libraries have evolved into social spaces, featuring games, movies and indeed, books. These spaces are decked out with modern library furniture, in order to appeal to the millennials that have likely defected to the e-book.
And this is where libraries can win out. A group of teens can hardly go and visit a pub in their free time, so a library can fill this void. At the same time, this educates and informs younger generations, meaning libraries are the perfect combo of fun and learning.
Elsewhere, we’ve seen many libraries begin to offer more than just books. With the closure of video rental stores, libraries are now offering DVDs and Blu-Rays, jumping quickly on a market gap. Libraries should embrace the digital age, and this goes beyond simply offering movie rentals.
Despite a public library’s reliance on traditional paper books, a focus on digital print media is needed. Not everyone can afford a tablet of e-reader, and libraries can provide this equipment for people to try out. By combining modern with old, libraries can appeal to people of all ages rather than neglecting those who only seek e-material.
And herein lies the answer to our question. Libraries haven’t really ‘evolved’ per say – and nor do they need to. Of the hundreds of thousands still in existence, you’d be hard pressed to find one that has abandoned traditional print media. They are still used for their intended purpose, and that will never change.
Rather, the change comes from adding new services and aspects. Adding a social space for youngsters to hang out. Adding support for e-books, and other forms of entertainment media. Tech is changing the world, and we need libraries to follow it. We still need them, but perhaps we need them to do slightly more than their original intended purpose. It’s not rocket science!