Her remark made me think about my own experiences with libraries and how the institution has adapted to the digital revolution. I’ve always loved books and was a big fan of my library beginning in elementary school. Summer time for me meant visiting the local library and checking out the maximum allowed to fill the down time when it was too hot to play in the 100º+ heat. Starting in junior high, the library provided the reference books I needed to do required research papers. They even had a copy machine (for 10¢ a page) if I didn’t have time to complete my reading. In graduate school, I could even reserve a special cubicle for a semester and check out books to that space for easy consultation.
With the advent of the digital age, libraries have responded by creating public computer centers where anyone can the Web, networking with other libraries to more easily respond to patrons’ requests for specific books, and now providing on-line access to digital media through a service called Overdrive. Patrons don’t even have to go to the library to download books and music! With an account, they can go to their library’s Webpage and download audio books, music, and e-books. My own debut novel Saving Hope is now available through Overdrive, opening another avenue to readers.
Libraries have adapted to their patrons’ needs in other ways as well, providing classes or talks on various subjects—from how to do your taxes to genealogy—serving as a community meeting place, and generally providing a special connection between local government and all its citizens. They’ve come a long way from the “social library” invented by Benjamin Franklin where subscribers paid a membership fee to have access to shared book, but the goal has always been the same: creating a more informed public.
Have your experiences with libraries changed over the years? Anything you’ve recently discovered in a trip there?