Libraries have always been valuable cultural, scientific, and academic centers. From the ancient Greeks and Romans until the present-day, libraries have stood as symbols of our determination as a species to spread information and knowledge as far and wide as possible. The role of libraries has changed throughout our history to reflect changes in our society and our attitudes towards education. Now that technology plays such a fundamental role in education for much of the world, our libraries to are changing the way they operate. It wasn’t long ago when the sole function of a library was to lend books; many now offer free public computer access and the internet.
E-books and e-readers are growing in popularity and are one of the main avenues by which children and young people are getting into the world of reading. From the libraries’ perspective, digital lending makes a huge amount of sense; for one thing, digital files require no physical space in the library and can be loaned out to multiple individuals simultaneously. Digital titles also allow libraries to offer a greater range of choice for users, as libraries don’t have to worry about losing shelf space to a title that will likely just sit there.
Internet access is something that many of us take for granted. However, not everyone has access to an internet connection and some people that do are still faced with torturously slow speeds. Libraries are increasingly offering good computers and internet connections that are available for members of the public to use. Studies have consistently shown that making the internet more widely accessible brings with it a number of benefits for communities and wider society.
Libraries of the future will have to account for the fact that people increasingly have access to books and information on their phones and other mobile devices. The ability to access these things on the go, from just about any location, does in many ways make the job of the library harder, as it has to be able to compete with services that are offering a level of convenience that it is difficult to match. Future libraries may tap into some of the ultra-high-speed internet connections being developed at universities across the world, which will enable them to offer something that most people won’t have access to at home.
From the perspective of governments, investment in libraries of the future must include encouraging more people to study for a masters of information degree. The master of information prepares students for running libraries of all forms; from community libraries to those at academic institutions. An online master of information program is a fantastic way for those interested in library management to study while working another job. The online MLIS degree can be paid for in installments as you study and will cost less overall than a traditional degree.
Libraries are important parts of local communities around the world. As time goes on, the role they are playing in society is changing, so let’s hope they manage to survive.