Monday, January 17, 2011

The Enterprise Asked "How Does the Library Compete?"

In case you missed it, the Enterprise newspaper's recap of 2010 issue included an editorial that asked about how the Library competes in today's technology-driven world. Below is my response, also printed in this week's newspaper:

The “Happy New Year?” editorial asked “How does the library compete in an ever increasingly [sic] technological market?”

Technology is a tool. Books may have been the first tool used by public libraries to provide access to information, but they are not the only tool. Technology has reshaped the way libraries deliver information, but the basic mission of providing access to information continues. Plainfield Public Library District uses technology to keep up with the needs of the Plainfield community in a time when demand for service is greater than ever.

In 2010, you checked out over 756,000 items from the Plainfield Public Library, an increase of 24% over 2009. Those check outs include a wide variety of formats beyond books: ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, video games, CD audiobooks, DVDs, music CDs, Blu-Ray DVDs, downloadable videos, software on CD and more. Not included in that figure is your access to dozens of databases and online services like and Homework Help Now that would not be available without today’s technology.

Computers and Internet for the public are core services at your Library, never dreamt of when public libraries were invented. You can get access to your Library’s resources and collections with a Library computer or your own, in the Library or from anywhere in the world, using the Library’s wired connection, free Wi-Fi or your own Internet access to connect to the wide range of services and collections available to you from the Library’s 24/7 branch: the Library website At Plainfield Public Library, you can find both computers and help using them - from getting your resume printed out to a computer class for learning new skills, from a quick answer to a “how do I…” question to Book a Librarian one-on-one training. In December alone, users logged onto Library computers for over 6,200 sessions, more than 18 public computers used every minute the Plainfield Public Library was open in December. Demand for Library computers has swelled from 3,700 sessions in 2004 to nearly 50,000 in 2010. Whether you type a paper, check your email or fill out an online application for a job, this service is essential to many who cannot afford or choose not to have a computer or high-speed Internet access at home.

Beyond offering more formats than ever before and computers for public use, Plainfield Public Library is keeping up with the latest technology you want to use. E-readers were the must-have gift this Christmas. Your Library was ready with the MyMediaMall downloadable collection of ebooks and downloadable audiobooks. So many library users went on the MyMediaMall site in the first few days after Christmas, the site crashed. Upon its revival, you checked out nearly the entire Plainfield Public Library ebook collection, prompting your Library staff to make increasing the ebook and downloadable collections a priority. One of only 17 libraries selected from throughout the United States to pilot the Sony Reader Library Program, your Library is partnering with Sony and local businesses to market e-readers, downloadable collections and how to use them. Starting with e-readers donated by Sony, you can now check out e-readers, adding one more way technology is changing how you use your Library.

Today’s question is not how libraries compete, but how does your Library keep up with your needs as technology changes? Plainfield Public Library District uses technology as a tool in its mission to Educate - Captivate - Connect.

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