I've heard many people say that physical libraries are becoming irrelevant and a way of the past. With technology constantly on the rise, who wants to go to some building and dust off a crummy old book?
Lot's of people – that's who. In fact, more people than ever are using the local libraries.
A 2010 survey by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the federal agency that monitors library usage, reported a 32.7% increase in physical library visits between 2001 and 2010. The American Library Association also reported an increase of library visits – a staggering 61% increase between 1994 and 2004. Similar increases were found in Canada, where overall library usage surged by 45% between 2000 and 2009, including a 16% increase in book lending.
The truth is, libraries are still relevant (and thriving) because they are finding ways to adapt and evolve, something they must continue to do into the future with the ever-looming harsh budget environment.
"The wi-fi connection should be delivered in a comfortable, retail-standard environment, with the usual amenities of coffee, sofas and toilets," the report states.
While I would argue the majority of U.S. public libraries already offer most of these services (albeit the coffee) they also must expand their digital services like e-lending if they are to continue to be viable, or so NPR explains. I think an online presence for individual libraries is also a must to ensure their survival. For example, just look at all the good social media has done for the Ferguson Municipal Public Library!
The idea of libraries mirroring coffee shops sounds nice. I can just imaging sipping a hot Chai Tea Latte while pursuing a book in the back of the stacks – but there's one flaw. Many public libraries ask that their patrons do not eat or drink inside the building to avoid messes, especially food and beverage stains inside books. But if there's one thing I've learn from working at a circulation desk – and believe me – those stains (and others) have already found a way into most books. Maybe we can pass a mandatory sippy cup rule?