Cambrians are excited about the new Cambria Library — so much so, that we’ve nearly finished an unbelievable feat. This special town is on the verge of completing a $1.4 million local fundraising effort in tough economic times to replace our beloved but aging and too-small library building. Amazing!
Especially when some have been predicting the demise of the public library. Even in Cambria folks have said we should forget expanding the library. They say the Internet and computers are making a physical library facility obsolete. Yet, how does that explain that borrowing and visits have been steadily increasing across the country, with places like Seattle seeing a whopping 50 percent increase in the past six years?
If the Internet really is replacing the library, I would think that people who are most skilled and comfortable using technology would be the ones least interested in a library. It ought to follow that people who aren’t so computer savvy or have no high-speed access would be the big library users. Surprise! Recent research paints a much different picture.
The Pew Internet Research Group discovered that young adults ages 18 to 30 turn to the library for information and problem solving more than any other age group. In fact, they are more than twice as likely to do so. That pretty much throws a monkey wrench into the theory that these are people who are so into the online world that libraries don’t matter.
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The researchers found that access to information and information technology made young adults hungry for more — and they know that libraries are the place to get it. The difference between data available through libraries and data from the wide-open Internet can be summed up in one word: Quality.
The areas people research the most — education, finances, and health and wellness — are all areas where libraries excel at answers. People who use the library most often say that the presence of high quality information, technology and resources, coupled with knowledgeable staff, are why they choose to use a library in the first place.
People from young adults to seniors are being attracted to libraries because they have free broadband Internet access and computer resources. The rapid growth of eBooks has created tremendous demand for them in libraries. Across the country more than two-thirds of public libraries offer eBooks, and use is on the rise. Libraries are turning more and more to social media to connect with customers, especially Facebook and Twitter. The message is clear: Technology isn’t ruining the library or making it obsolete.
For a lot of us, there’s still no replacement for the feel of a book in our hands. But libraries have always been about more than books. They have been venues for sharing ideas, for gathering with our neighbors, for finding out about our planet or our society or trends in the wider world. Whether we find that information on a computer screen, in an eBook reader, a tablet or holding a book, the place we gather to explore new vistas will continue to be the local library.
And, thanks to so many Cambrians, this town will have a beautiful, comfortable and inviting place to do just that. Please, if you haven’t taken the chance yet, join with your neighbors and send a generous check. If you have given, please consider another gift. Let’s finish this off today, and get that library open!
Greg Fitzgerald’s column is special to The Cambria. The former Cambria resident and services district director is coordinating fundraising for the Friends of the Cambria Library. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. “Our New Library” appears monthly on the third Thursday. For more information, go to www.cam briafol.org.