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Public libraries better than apple pie [UPDATED]

Published 9:41am Friday, January 10, 2014 Updated 11:42am Friday, January 10, 2014

Robinson Meyer, a reporter with The Atlantic, recently found that public libraries trump apple pie when it comes to approval ratings.

Better than warm, fresh from the oven, topped with vanilla ice cream apple pie! You can read the full story here: http://bit.ly/ITKsZM. Meyer’s curiosity piqued when he read a recent Pew Research study (libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/12/11/libraries-in-communities/) revealing that Americans strongly value their public libraries, and he decided to put that value into context.

The recent Library Renewal Project Survey conducted by the library task force also revealed that community members highly value the Fergus Falls Public Library.

Ninety-seven percent of respondents said the library was an important community asset and 66 perent indicated that they used the library at least monthly.

The Pew Research Study found that Americans specifically value public libraries because they level the playing field by giving everyone access to the tools they need to succeed.

They also value their public libraries as institutions that support and promote literacy and reading and enhance the quality of life of the communities they live in.

This is all great news, but there is a caveat. According to the Study, Americans also feel internet access is an important service public libraries provide, however, they are divided on how well they feel libraries are keeping up with technology and maintaining their role as information providers in the digital age.

Like the Pew Research study, respondents to the Library Renewal Project Survey also felt providing access to computers, the internet and wireless was an important library service.

Seventy-five percent of respondents felt providing access to technology is an important role of the library.

However, it seems public libraries may have more work to do when it comes to communicating the value of the services they provide in the digital age.

Part of the issue may lie in the usage numbers libraries report that are, in turn, shared with their communities. Traditionally, public libraries have kept track of the number of items they check out, the number of visits they receive and similar statistics.

While these numbers are important, they don’t reflect some of the new ways customers are using the library.

At FFPL we now track the number of times we help library customers with technology related questions and the number who attend our classes, in addition to the number who download ebooks and audiobooks, check-out computers and iPads and use our wireless internet.

Literacy education these days includes digital literacy instruction and libraries are increasingly becoming learning centers for all things digital in addition to maintaining their traditional literacy role.

Beginning in February, thanks to a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation, the library will begin checking out equipment like digital cameras and projectors and will offer photo and videoediting software and an extensive catalog of how-to video tutorials.

Because technology is everywhere these days, it is important that technology be integrated throughout the library and that the library provide access not only to computers, but also to the advanced equipment and software necessary to participate, learn and compete in today’s digital society.

Better than apple pie? You bet! Now and into the future, we at the Fergus Falls Public Library strive to meet the needs of our community and earn the approval of our patrons.

Although we can’t offer you apple pie, we can offer you a hot cup of coffee, help with your new ereader or tablet, and a good book on these cold days.

As always, I look forward to seeing you at the library.

 

Erin Smith is the director of the Fergus Falls Public Library.

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