Technology is growing by leaps and bounds. The cycle from unconceived to visionary, the latest new thing on the market, standard, old-fashioned, obsolete, and eventually unavailable has never been faster. Where better than the library to keep track of everything? Libraries are early adopters of technology. They make the new technology available for free to the general public, and librarians teach patrons to use it. Libraries also hang on to old technology, because as the world at large moves on to the next new thing, the old content does not necessarily move with it.
- There may be nothing new about computers, computer networks, or the Internet, but not everyone has access at home. Anyone can go to the library.
- The world generates new information constantly. Librarians develop tools and techniques to find and organize it and teach them to their patrons.
- New ways of gaining access to information arise constantly, too. Librarians learn to use it and teach library patrons.
- Anyone who wants to read an ebook but doesn’t own an ebook reader can check it out from the library
- Anyone with an ebook reader who wants to read a book but doesn’t want to buy it can borrow it from the library, just like a printed book.
- Recorded music began with wax cylinders. 78rpm discs followed until singles became available on 45 rpm records and albums on 33 1/3 rpm records, both of which required narrower needles than the 78s. If you don’t own the playback equipment, where but a library can you find it? (The older the technology, the fewer libraries will have it, of course.)
- A similar evolution happened from wire recording, reel to reel tapes, 8-track tapes, and cassettes. The compact disc rendered all of these technologies obsolete, and signs of its eventual demise are everywhere now that file downloading has become popular. Again, where but the library can you find it?
- Remember video discs? Remember the Betamax video format? U-Matic tape cassettes? These and other formats fell by the wayside with VHS cassettes became the standard. Remember VHS? Now everyone uses DVD. How long will that last? When no one makes them any more, the library will still have them. It still has old tapes and playback equipment.
- And why would anyone be interested in obsolete technology? Because a lot of content in these old formats has never been reissued on any of the later ones. Libraries that own machines to play the older technologies have plenty of wonderful content you can’t play or watch anywhere else. Unless, of course, you have your own collection at home. Even then, the library will offer plenty that you don’t have.
Services using technology
- Libraries teach information literacy and critical thinking skills.
- Libraries teach media literacy skills, so people can learn new formats and technologies as they emerge. Media literacy specifically includes learning to use sophisticated and expensive new software.
- People use libraries to look for jobs online.
- People take classes at the library in how to write resumes, cover letters, etc., and then prepare them using word processing software provided by library computers.
- When someone needs to prepare for a career change, libraries offer resources and workshops.
- The most relevant and reliable information is often not available for free on the Web, but on expensive proprietary databases, available at the library at no cost.
I don’t for a moment suppose I have mentioned every technological service available at libraries. Please add more in the comments.