By Josie Rerecich
Public libraries are an essential part of society, even in the advanced technological age. Though in-person library use has gone down, a 2016 survey from the Pew Research Center shows only a slight decline. According to the survey, the highest percentage of public library visitors happened to be millennials.
Thomas D. Walker, dean of the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, is not surprised that 18 to 35-year-olds make up 53 percent of public library visitors. “They’re in a position where they are relatively young and they’re exploring life,” Walker said. “Libraries have been associated with those things for decades.”
One cannot talk about public libraries today without mentioning technology. With electronic reading devices and movie streaming services, it almost seems like libraries will become obsolete in the near future.
Dr. Panos Mourdoukoutas, chairperson of the economics department, recently argued on Forbes. com in an editorial on July 21, 2018, that Amazon Books should replace public libraries. This, he wrote, would help save taxpayer dollars. The editorial, which has since been taken down from the website, caused uproar. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything that got folks so riled up as that,” said David Jank, a professor of Library Science.
Meghan Collins, a second year Library Science student, believes that all kinds of technology have
a place in public libraries. “I think there should be more technology in the libraries,” said Collins. “I’ve seen 3D printers in libraries, and there should be classes with different types of technology.”
When it comes to getting people to continue using public libraries, it is up to patrons to spread the word. “It’s like any word of mouth advertising,” said Jank. “If I get something at a library, I’ll tell my family and my friends. I love when I’m at a restaurant or at a store and I overhear someone say, ‘Oh, you’ll never guess what I saw at the library.’”
Librarians also have an important task at publicity. “Librarians should keep doing what they’re doing,” said Walker. “They’re doing a spectacular job at engaging communities. They work on this around the clock. Not just the reading needs, but educational needs, cultural needs, and community needs of their populations. They analyze and reanalyze the communities in which they establish themselves in.”
When asked what she enjoys most about public libraries, Collins couldn’t decide on just one aspect. “There’s so many great things about it,” she said. “The books, the movies. You can take classes, you can have help finding something. Everyone is just so friendly there.”
One thing that people seem to agree on is that the public libraries aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. “They are very strong,” said Walker. “They receive a huge amount of community support.”