The Once, and Future, Library

How many times has it been said that education is learning how to teach yourself? This is something that many of us, some of “a certain age,” can readily admit to being told on almost a daily basis during our formative years. Learning was often quite formulaic, where one was to sit quietly in front of open books, paper, and a writing instrument. This was what was prescribed and enforced by a great many parents and teachers.

There were many in the past who regularly did homework and other school assignments at the library, where there were resources complementing the material used in the classroom. It was also a place where one could concentrate and work in a place of general quiet, by students young and old. It is worth noting that this was the expectation on the part of most in the community that this was what the library environment was normally to be. By and large this is still the case for libraries, particularly public libraries.

Recently, there was a report issued by the Pew Research Center, “Library Services in the Digital Age.” This paper examines the role of the library in the presence of the Internet, e-books and e-media, and the comments of people surveyed concerning their views on the relevance of libraries in the present day. Also discussed are survey results about what materials and services people are interested most in from the library.

The report does not predict the impending irrelevence and demise of the library as we know it, nor does it foresee the disappearance of the paper book format. It does present a snapshot of what people are seeing and expecting in the way of services, now and in the future. In short, the findings reveal that people are looking for the library to provide information and assistance from librarians in locating it, in the same way that was done in the past but with the knowledge and technology of the the present and future.

This is the time of the year, the beginning of March, when students of various levels are beginning to enter what many call the “test season.” This includes the standardized assessment examinations given to elementary and secondardy level students throughout the US, as well as the SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement (AP) and Achievement tests, along with a few other professional and vocational exams that people are beginning anew to study and prepare for.  As any librarian can tell you, there are now a wide variety of study and review materials available on a number of electronic and print platforms from which to access it.

In mentioning it, this is not to ignore or diminish the regular and ongoing efforts of students of all levels, in school and post graduation, in their studies to learn and move on to the next level of their educational careers. It is usually impressed on people, typically by parents and teachers and tutors,  that the way to review and retain the material appearing on tests to to make a dedicated  and unrushed effort at this, studying. The act of studying covers a wide range of things from memorizing facts and figures, to reading and reviewing different types of material and resources, to writing reports and assembling presentations.

The library in the past has been a forum where information and various media, such as art images, are housed and retrieved. It has also been a place where knowledge can be accessed for academics as well as personal enrichment and fulfillment. From what people are saying, this is what we can expect the role of the library to be in the future as well, no matter what technology is on the scene.


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