I remember my hometown library fondly. It was a place I went each week during my early years of school to check out new books and materials. I even remember accessing the sophisticated-for-its-time computer systems that were slowly eroding the index card files. However, all other memories aside, the defining characteristic about the library was that it was a place for old technology. It was a place that let you borrow books, VHS tapes and casettes, and certainly not a center of innovation. Today all that is changing.
Changing needs, changing technologies
As the internet has become increasingly more accessible over the years, many would say that the reliance on printed materials has decreased. Being that libraries are run by groups of smart people, they’ve been able to stay ahead of the game and grow their available services to cater to the changing needs of patrons. Now when I visit my local library (Kirkendall Public Library), I’m greeted by much more than books. They’ve got walls of CDs and DVDs, plus an entire quadrant of computers, all ready for use by visitors.
Same game, new tools
The concept of the library is still the same – a place with an expert staff managing a wealth of reference materials – but the tools and technology have changed. One example of this change is the recent surge in use of social media by libraries across the country. In fact, the Daily Herald recently wrote about a number of libraries around Chicago that are taking up residence online in order to better connect with their patrons and their peers. And they’re not just connecting with their audience, but they’re also teaching their audience how to use the tools themselves.
The best part of the Herald article is that they don’t paint the libraries’ involvement in social media as part of a fad. The story mentions that some got started out of a need to maintain relevancy, but the core driving factor was to support the needs and capabilities of their patrons.
Connecting is at the core of social media
Michael Stephens, assistant professor of library and information science at Dominican University in River Forest, tells his students to remember that “while these social networks are a technology, their prime value is allowing humans to connect with each other.”
This simple concept is something that so many entering social media today get wrong. Social media is not about repainting an old message and throwing it back into the marketplace. Social media is about communicating and connecting with others through a medium that levels the playing field.
If age-old libraries are learning to adjust and leverage these new modes of communication, what is your excuse?