Libraries Connecting Communities Through Technology
A study conducted by the American Library Association (ALA) shows that 90% of libraries now support online books, magazines, and other resources, raising the question that many booksellers have had to face as well: is a brick-and-mortar location still necessary? E-books do not require sorting, maintenance, or staff and, at first glance, it may seem that e-books are eclipsing the need for physical libraries, just as e-books are eroding physical book sales.
However, unlike most bookstores, libraries are a fixture of the community. With learning programs for children, homework help, career development, Wi-Fi access, health and wellness classes, makerspaces, and much more, libraries offer countless resources that are constantly growing and evolving. Instead of allowing new advances to reduce the need for library locations, many branches are using applications and devices to connect with the community in new ways.
Since 1982, the Spartanburg, South Carolina county libraries have offered the Home-Bound Program, bringing books to those with permanent or semi-permanent conditions that make it difficult or impossible to leave the home. The Home-Bound Program brings the library to the residents and is now more convenient than ever. Beginning in 2014, the library added Nooks to the program. The program’s Nooks come to patrons pre-loaded with a variety of titles and provide features which make reading easier.
“After talking with patrons, we realized that this might be an easy fix,” said Amanda Newman, Coordinator of Development at the library. “It’s easier to hold a lightweight device than large print books. This is also a way to deliver multiple titles and check them out for a longer time.” For those that are visually impaired, the Nook can zoom in on text and the device can even read the book aloud.
While patrons can use the Nooks from their home, volunteers and library staff provide directions on using the device and help to load books of preference.
“We take them directly to the person’s home and spend some time with them,” said Evelyn Parks, the Home-Bound Program Coordinator. “We want to find out exactly what they want.”
After becoming familiar with the device through the program, some patrons have even later purchased Nooks for themselves so they can use it all the time and accumulate titles.
Libraries lie at the heart of digital inclusion, forming a vital conduit crossing digital divides created by age, disability, income, education, and geography. By making e-books available remotely while keeping Wi-Fi and many other digital resources available at the location, libraries form an outreach network successfully bringing technology into communities. As new technology adopters, literacy advocates, and trusted community fixtures, libraries are able to bridge gaps unlike any other institution.
Learn more about library programs oriented toward technology and other cutting-edge programs happening in your community at http://connectmycommunity.org/.