The Role of Libraries as Community and Cultural Centers

Not many people might know or be aware but libraries have played and have been playing an integral role in community services over the past many years. Nevertheless, we find that in an increasingly digital work, the role of libraries as community and cultural centers is being undervalued. In recent times, the municipal budgets have been in decline and the fast increasing and improving technologies mean that fewer people are visiting libraries these days. However, it is important to note that it has been because of the decreasing budgets as well as the race of technology that libraries are becoming increasingly more important today.

Many people tend to think of libraries as being full of books and computers and where, mostly, students go to study. Libraries are much more than that, as they serve as places where can go to interact, imagine, and explore. There are a number of ways in which libraries help communities and add value to the patron’s experiences. These include the fact that libraries are community builders, they serve as community centers for diverse populations, they can be depicted as centers for the arts, as well as being champions of youth.

For example, research has shown that libraries have been revitalizing the struggling or depressed neighborhoods for the many years. When a town or a municipality is facing economic distress, libraries serve as functional community-based places to help such a town. Other than that, we find that many of the new immigrants who are coming into Canada can go to the libraries and immerse themselves in the culture and language. This allows many of the non-English speakers to find representation within their communities. Local libraries also provide access to the non-mainstream points of view and provide voices to the local artists as well.

Libraries in the Digital Era

Libraries have been evolving over the past 25 years and this has been with regards to the changing technological landscape. There were few or no computers in the library except for searching for books and today, most of the libraries offer computer stations as well as high-speed Internet access for the users. This is why the library has become a place for both students as well as the online workers working in the digital realm, providing them with quaint office spaces for their work. Other than that, libraries are being designed with much more minimalistic and modern designs, such as having glass facades as well as having eclectic architectural patterns and motifs, both externally as well as internally

In terms of technologies changing libraries, we find that books are fast becoming digital. Even though many people still buy real books, a lot of the newer generation children are reading digital books on many different kinds of devices, such as the Kindle or their tablets/iPads. This technology is also being implemented in many of the libraries, with the libraries providing such digital devices to their users.  All these aspects are likely to inspire and motivate more people to visit more libraries in the future.

If you want to listen to senior librarians from across North America speak about how they address the changing and challenging environment for libraries in the municipal setting and how technology is helping libraries evolve, don’t miss the 3rd Annual Intelligent Cities Summit, on November 5 and 6, 2018.

Pictures: Freepik.com and Pexels.com

 

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