Other News
5:00 am
Tue January 22, 2013

PEW report: Reinventing libraries

Are you the person with a neat pile of library books on your bedside table? Or maybe you're a screen person with electronic copies of the latest e-books. Whether your preference is traditional print or digital, a new report says libraries won't be giving up the old for the new but that doesn't mean they won't add some bells and whistles.

According to a new report, free computer and internet use doesn't exactly trump books as the most important thing libraries have to offer, but it has become a key service. And while library patrons say they are eager to get their hands on more sophisticated technologies, they still want to visit the stacks. Kathryn Zickuar is from the Pew Research Center which conducted the nationwide survey. This is the first time Pew has studied Americans' library usage.

"The top three things they said were: borrowing print books, librarians available to help people find information, and providing free access to computers and the internet."

The report also says a notable share of Americans say they would be interested in wider use of technology in the library, like GPS-navigation apps to locate materials or a techie petting zoo where they could try out new devices. Projects like this are already underway in Seattle and the King County Library System.

Jim Loter, the Director of Information Technology at the Seattle Public Library, says the goal of the library has always been to provide access to information, but now needs are becoming more complex and task-oriented. Besides applying for benefits or jobs online, people want to create digital content at the library.

"We really are taking a broader view of digital literacy and what does it mean in 2013 to be digitally literate. You know, 10 years ago it was just knowing how to use a web browser. Now digital literacy encompasses a whole lot more, including content creation, and it's our goal - it's the public library's goal - to put those tools in people's hands."

Story of how the Pew report plays out in Seattle and King County libraries.

Loter says by mid-2013, Seattle Public Library will provide services to teach people how to create multimedia projects and provide a platform for everyone to use.