How libraries are staying relevant in a digital age many thought would destroy them
Amid ongoing public funding cuts across the U.S. in the last decade and more Americans relying on home internet service for information, America’s libraries have struggled to survive.
According to the American Library Association, more than 20 states cut their library funding significantly for three consecutive years (2010-2012). Some states don’t even offer public funding to support community libraries.
Library use has also dipped. A Pew Research Center study released earlier this year found that less than half of Americans reported having been to a library in the past year.
Yet as the internet becomes a necessity in more aspects of every day life (from job hunting to paying bills) and with rates of internet access highly variable across American households, many libraries are enjoying a renaissance, according to the New York Times, especially in the New York City area.
By adding classes that include computer coding, meditation, job counseling and knitting groups to its roster of services, libraries are making themselves viable beyond places to get free internet access and a book or two.
“No longer just repositories for books, public libraries have reinvented themselves as one-stop community centers that aim to offer something for everyone,” The Times reported. “In so doing, they are reaffirming their role as an essential part of civic life in America by making themselves indispensable to new generations of patrons.”
The reason for this success, the Times reports? Fierce public support, showing that libraries are not only still wanted, but needed centers of community service.
“It’s showing that libraries are the fabric of society,” Christian Zabriskie, executive director of the library advocacy group Urban Librarians Unite, told the Times.