It is a well-debated topic. Are libraries still relevant when we have instant access to information on the internet? Being in a public library setting on a daily basis, I can strongly argue that not only does the internet make libraries more relevant, but it makes us almost indispensable.
Take for example, this quote:
The library is one of the only places people ca go to get free, unlimited personal assistance navigating the online universe.
——-Mandy McGee, Adult Services Supervisor at Elmwood Park Public Library (excerpt taken from THIS IS WHAT A LIBRARIAN LOOKS LIKE by Kyle Cassidy)
This is so true on many levels. We have five public access computers, as well as free wi-fi at our library. Many larger libraries probably have even more to offer, including the use of devices such as tablets that they can borrow. Every day, we have many questions from people who are using the internet—including how to print a page, how to save a document to a USB drive or to the computer, where to find phone numbers, maps, or addresses, how to open an email account, how to use Facebook, and a variety of countless things that might only pop up once in a while.
People need us. Not everyone has their own computer. Not everyone knows how to use a computer to look up information or to apply for jobs or funding. Not everyone understands how to access public wi-fi. While we strive to help everyone find and use the information online that they want, sometimes, it will take a little more than just a quick five minutes. So, we also offer weekly tech-tutoring, which is a one-on-one session with our “tech-spert” to go over whatever technical questions a person would like to learn. Our tech tutor teaches people how to double click a mouse, how to save documents into files, where to log into the internet, how to access public wi-fi, how to print something, what certain programs are capable of doing, and much, much more.
Now, think about purchasing a new computer. Can you go back to the store repeatedly to ask how to operate that computer? Can you continually call tech-support and get immediate assistance for free? Can you go back to the same people when you forget what they explained the first time? I would have to guess that most often, the answer is no.
But at the library, we will help you as many times as you need, for whatever your problems might include. And if we can’t figure something out, we’ll try to find someone who knows, or find the information online to help you with your issue.
Even if you’re very skilled in using your device, sometimes people just need a little assistance to work a new app, or print something wirelessly. We do that. And we do it for free every single time, usually without much of a wait time.
Where else can you get service like that?
Libraries will continue to be sources of personal assistance in navigating the world wide web, which is essentially just one large depot for information. Exactly what we’ve always done, just in a new way. And until there is a free community access facility to help people with technology and information on how to use it, the library will be absolutely necessary. Always…now, just with an ‘on’ button.
Happy Ontario Public Library Week!