Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Libraries- Staying the Course to the Detriment of Those in Need

Libraries in a State of Decline

Since my childhood, I have spent a lot of time visiting public libraries. In my youth I utilized these locations for a place to hangout before heading home. Now I use the library to satisfy my guilty pleasure for Women’s magazines.  Over the years I have noticed a severe decline in the care taken in public libraries. The books are old, the CDs are neglected, and there are less young people using the facility. I believe the decline in libraries is attributed to the increasing need for digital services. Libraries do offer computers and free internet access, however a study conducted by the Information Policy & Access Center reported that “87 percent of urban libraries report having insufficient computers, and only 17 percent of rural libraries offer broadband speeds greater than 10 Mbps, compared with 57 percent of urban libraries”. [1] This means that those who require Internet access will search elsewhere because the public library is not meeting their needs. In fact, PEW Research Center found that those who have the highest levels of engagement with libraries are those who are affluent and who hold positive ideas about libraries.[2] This is troubling. The intent of libraries is to serve those who require access to education who could not otherwise afford it.

Libraries- Staying the Course

From my understanding, libraries are non-profit government entities. Most of their funding comes directly from the government and individual contributions. Customarily, government entities tend to be less susceptible to change. Seven Ways to Fail Big, by Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui, explains the problematic siren of “Staying the Course”. The articles states, “executives too often kid themselves into thinking that a problem isn’t so severe or delay any reaction until it is too late.” I believe this is the precise issue libraries are facing. Although, there have been attempts to expand the offered services of libraries there has been very little change regarding digital offerings specifically.

A Library Keeping Up the Pace

In my search to find cheap/free textbooks for the second semester I ventured to Pittsburgh Public Library, Main located on Forbes Ave. An LED banner pleasantly greeted me along with a calendar of that month’s programs. I was surprised to find a gadget workshop offered on Monday nights. Visitors could bring in their laptops and e-readers to get one-on-one lessons on fully utilizing the capabilities of their devices. This library also offered laptop rentals as well as computer stations. There is a café center as well as a teen center. One Monday of every month, the library hosts an after-hours party for 21+ visitors.

Pittsburgh library has heeded the warning within Seven Ways to Fail Big. With the understanding that Gen Y is a Starbucks drinking, i-pad having, happy hour seeking group, Pittsburgh Library has modernized their facilities. In turn, they are able to garner more contributions from donors, entice a younger crowd, and provide a wider and more efficient digital experience to those in need. If more libraries followed the lead of Pittsburgh Library the decline in the use of these facilities would deter and there will be a greater platform to impact education.


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