An evolving role for the public library

The role of the public library in our communities is undergoing rapid change. We still find shelves filled with books there, but the underlying mission of the library goes beyond providing a place for reading. Libraries are about the connection of people to knowledge and experiences to which they might not have access if left to only their own resources. In this digital age, much of that access to information has moved to the internet.

Libraries are reporting that 62 percent of their facilities offer the only free computer and Internet access in their communities, yet only 9 percent say they have the high-capacity connections needed to support the computers, Wi-Fi and technological training necessary for an increasingly paperless world. The New York Times highlighted this discussion in a recent article.

“When people can’t apply for jobs or access government services because they don’t have access from home, public libraries must be there for them,” said Linda Lord, a librarian in Maine. “Where else are they going to go? Police station? Town hall? I don’t think so.”