I spoke to some librarians and a library specialists from the Knight Foundation for PBS MediaShift about how libraries are facing Americans’ transition to reading digital books, especially given the country’s ongoing financial difficulties that have struck library budgets hard.
Here’s a snippet from the article:
What Is the Role of Libraries in the Age
of E-Books and Digital Information?
Public libraries are a major hub through which Americans gain access to e-books and other digital resources, but these institutions’ role in the digital transition hasn’t been made easy by the nation’s recent economic troubles.
On April 9, the American Library Association released its annual State of America’s Libraries Report, and many of its findings were grim. “Public libraries continue to be battered by a national economy whose recovery from the Great Recession is proving to be sluggish at best,” the report concluded. Twenty-three of the 49 chief officers of state libraries surveyed indicated that their library systems faced budget cuts over the past two years. According to the report, “For three years in a row, more than 40 percent of participating states have reported decreased public library funding.”
While library budget cuts continue, demand for library services has soared. Lower-income and unemployed patrons often turn to local libraries as their only source of Internet access.
At the same time, libraries have sought to accommodate Americans’ ever-increasing demand for access to digital materials, a mission that has put them at odds with the publishing industry, which is struggling to retain its viability as many American readers shift toward reading books electronically and purchasing those titles from online retailers rather than traditional bookstores.
“In the end, it will be a matter of leadership and vision that will guide libraries through the current conditions,” said Jorge Martinez, director of Information Systems for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which supports libraries through grants.
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