There is romanticism to the imagery of libraries as hallowed temples of learning, protected from the ephemeral nature of the digital age. But as technology advances into every aspect of modern life, libraries are experiencing a shift from being housed strictly in physical spaces and are moving onto the web. This transition is creating an identity crisis for libraries,. It also means incredible possibilities for learning outcomes across the globe with digital archives connecting students, teachers, and researchers-enhancing the sharing of information. Take a look at the five ways that libraries – and the way we are accessing books – is evolving. Perhaps it will ease my sense of loss at the diminishing opportunities to encounter the sweet smell of a physical book.

1. Expanded access through information sharing

Digital Libraries provide robust interaction between information and users – democratizing the global dissemination of information. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) “Information for All Programme” (IFAP) embodiesthe modern importance of public information by providing access to over 25,000 titles and is equipped with on-line connections to a worldwide network of libraries. IFAP started in 2000 and works with governments worldwide who pledge to harness the new opportunities of the digital age in order to create equal societies through better access to information. This is a powerful goal.information sharing has the power to bolster educational equality across the world.

2. Libraries are becoming technology hubs

As the Internet becomes the main vehicle for people to get information, the tradition of a building stuffed with books is less relevant to our modern lives. As a result, libraries are transforming themselves into technological spaces. When looking at technology use in libraries, the Pew Research Internet Project foundthat patrons are increasingly thinking of libraries as community spaces that allow access to technology and as a source of digital literacy for various demographics.

3. Libraries are being shaped by budget cuts.

Within the United States, libraries have continued to struggle, particularly  since the 2008 global financial crisis. In many cases, local governments have scaled back the opening of new branches and library services. Conversely,  during the recession, more people than ever relied on libraries for entertainment, employment opportunities, and as a resource for internet access. Budgetary constraints continue to plague libraries and limit their ability to evolve and adapt, even as libraries see increased usage from the public.

4. Libraries have a strong role in local communities.

American communities have a deep love affair with public libraries. 90% of Americans say that the closing of their local public library would have significant impact on their communities, according to a report by Pew Research. Moreover, a large percentage of Americans aged 16 and above say they utilize libraries for materials, that libraries offer resources that give “everyone a chance to succeed,” that libraries are important in the promotion of literacy, and that public libraries improve quality of life in communities. Particularly for lower income Americans or Americans working in freelance positions, libraries offer spaces to

The number of e-book users is growing, but not to the extent to have replaced print books. While the percentage of adults who are reading e-books is growing, simultaneously, print book reading is also spend time and access information. I personally saw this trend while working at a local library when I was in college. During the financial crisis, the library saw a larger and more diverse patronage using its space and services.

5. Printed books still dominate reading, despite the growth of e-books.

The number of e-book uses in growing, but not to the extent that electronic books have replaced printed versions. While the percentage of adults who are reading e-books is growing, simultaneously, print book reading is also growing as are adults listening to audio books. The popularity of e-books is rising, but print remains the foundation of many people’s reading habits. This trend is expected to change as-reader ownership expands, but the love affair with an actual book isn’t expected to vanish completely. As much as I use my e-reader, nothing quite compares to the musty smell – yes, I do love it – of a book borrowed from the New York City Public Library.

Technological expansion and the changing way individuals gain access to information has deeply impacted the structure of libraries – physically as well as conceptually. Despite the modernization of libraries and their adaption to the digital age, these public spaces still hold a critical role within community. Libraries are doing well in changing with the needs of local communities, continuing to be beacons of information sharing, learning, and entertainment even amidst tight fiscal times.  


Kathleen Ebbitt


Demand Equity

Five Ways Libraries Are Changing In the Digital Age

By Former Global Citizen Staff Writer