The relevance of the 21st century library

By Patrick Brady, Editorial Staff

Libraries are still as relevant in the 21st century as they have been throughout history.

Sounds like a bold claim, doesn’t it?

Many people would argue that the purpose of being a librarian is to preserve archival, print, and electronic material – and that is true. But there’s more to the role than that.

The role of libraries is to preserve cultural heritage and increase mass digitization. Furthermore, librarians are much like journalists – they are community-based and provide reliable sources of information.

According to “Our Vocation is Information,” an article published on the American Libraries website, a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2017 determined that public libraries help people find “trustworthy, reliable information.” Surprisingly, 78% of Americans agreed with the statement.

In comparison, 33% had a positive view of the news media.

But what truly makes libraries so special?

First, they are a quiet place to study and do work. There are no other public spaces that regulate noise as effectively as libraries.

Libraries offer separate quiet rooms to patrons who request them in advance. These rooms are often limited to one or two people, but can sometimes hold as many as 12 patrons.

Second, whether it be a public, government, or university library, they all share one crucial characteristic – they are community-focused.

Not only do staff members enthusiastically assist patrons with all their reference needs and questions, but they also plan community-based events.

Librarians are always involved in brainstorming potential activities to increase patron engagement. These events range from virtual presentations to creative hands-on projects.

According to “What Even is a Librarian,” an article published on Ohioan.com, most librarians have individual projects, are involved with committees, and create content. These programs can encompass lectures, storytelling, concerts, classes, trivia, after-school activities, and author presentations.

And finally, libraries provide accessibility to countless desktop computers and free databases.

Those who do not have a computer are able to use those at the library to access the internet free of charge. This is a major benefit for people who cannot afford to pay Wi-Fi bills.

Additionally, people can borrow or access materials either in-person or by logging onto public library databases. For instance, through the Minuteman Public Library site, patrons can reserve books, DVDs, and audiobooks.

Because we live in an era in which truth is challenged, it is important to have free access to accurate information and librarians who can help the public find reliable and trustworthy facts.

Journalists and librarians both help the public pursue the truth by presenting information and research.

Along with journalists, librarians expose fake news and inform the general public about inaccurate information.

By offering quiet and community spaces, conducting community-centered events, and providing access to free online databases and Wi-Fi, along with their traditional role as a repository for print materials and a resource for accurate information, I believe libraries will continue to thrive in the future.