The Library App for the Digital Age

Think libraries are for a bygone era? Think again. Libraries remain viable as brick-and-click resource centers, especially for lifelong learners and people eager to add skills, earn credentials and find job opportunities.

Think libraries are for a bygone era? Think again. Libraries remain viable as brick-and-click resource centers, especially for lifelong learners and people eager to add skills, earn credentials and find job opportunities.

Libraries are often lumped together with horse-and-buggy carriages. But just as horse-drawn carriages gave way to motorized vehicles, libraries have become electronic hubs.

According to the Pew Research Center, many of the e-services libraries offer – which include job search and training resources – often go unrecognized by library patrons, especially those who actually go to a library instead of its website.

In a report last month, Pew Research noted library visits have continued to decline and library website use has leveled off. Of the people who go to a library, bookmobile or library website, nearly 100 percent view themselves as “lifelong learners.” Almost three-quarters of adults taking advantage of library resources say they read how-to materials or participate in other learning activities.

Women are more frequent library users than men. College grads use physical library resources at two times more often than high school dropouts, and they employ library websites three times as much. Urban and suburban residents tap their libraries at slightly higher rates than rural residents. Racial differences in library use aren’t particularly different, though Hispanics seem less prone to use online library services.

An unavoidable conclusion from Pew’s assessment is that the people who might benefit most from under-utilized library professional and job training and credentialing services are least likely to access them in person or online. They may not use these services because they aren’t aware of them, which may reflect that libraries and their government sponsors haven’t done as good a job as possible in making people aware of new-generation library resources.

Pew’s findings suggest an avenue of appeal to library non-users – self-identification as a “personal learner.” It seems people take pride in going to the library and using library services. It also may pay off in terms of improved skills, a professional credential or job leads.

For some, libraries may seem like yesterday’s news. They have been replaced by the Internet. What is missing in that assessment is the knowledge librarians have in organizing and harnessing useful information on shelves and online. Libraries even have an app for that.