Technology and the Library

Tom Viti has a good article, Technology and the Library, in the Westwood Press (MA), concerning how modern technology has changed the way in which people use libraries, as well as how the libraries themselves have changed how they do things, including helping with inter-library loans (more and more library systems are doing this).

Computer technology has made possible not just a speedier response, but a dramatic increase in the scope of library service as well. Access to print and non-print materials has expanded far beyond what librarians ever imagined possible. Most of our users want popular titles that are supplied by local libraries, but we have gotten specialized science, history and genealogy materials from as far away as the University of Hawaii.

The available resources are staggering. The 41 member Minuteman Library Network contains over 6 million volumes.By providing our holdings online, inter-library borrowing has skyrocketed. Last year Minuteman libraries swapped over 1.3 million items to meet non-residents’ requests. Westwood’s inter-library loan activity has increased by 78 percent since 2003. Massachusetts libraries also provide computers access to magazine and periodical databases containing thousands of articles. Westwood users made 5,000 database searches and printed 4,000 articles last year.

The numbers are pretty amazing. When the internet first started to take off, and with the rise of Amazon, etc., many people predicted that libraries would become obsolete or have to drastically scale back. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least in regards to the libraries I use – many people use them for internet access, and with genealogy becoming more and more popular, there is a corresponding rise in library useage.

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