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Libraries continue to evolve in digital age

February 22, 2017 GMT

Libraries have been vital in communities for ages. Now, in the era of digital media and instant information, more people are doing research and other traditional library tasks digitally. With so many people receiving information “on the go,” local Tomball and Spring-area libraries are working to evolve in the digital times.

Social media platforms are one of the main avenues libraries are connecting with others digitally.

The American Community Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, reported that 85.1 percent of American homes have some sort of computer. The libraries are also aiming to support the percentage of people who might not have access to computers, even if that population is small. The library still sees a need to provide computer use for the community.

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Staff of The Lone Star College-Tomball Community Library of the Harris County Public Library System are keeping up with the age of technology and social media. The Harris County Public Library has social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, and Instagram at both the system and branch level.

According to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Americans - 95 percent - now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 77 percent.

Library representatives still believe they can support and attract people who prefer their phone or other devices for their information. The library not only teaches technology through free community classes, the system has now implemented mobile circulation.

“We now have a MobileCirc that allows us to carry our circulation technology to schools, community centers, festivals, wherever people are gathered, to issue library cards or check out materials,” Lynne Ring said, co-director of LSC-Tomball Community Library. “In addition, we participate in several grant funded initiatives that use hot spots and iPads to share digital literacy with a variety of audiences.”

The library also offers the iKnow Digital Access card, a library card that can be applied for online and provides access to eBooks, streaming movies, music and more. The library also offers a wide variety of downloadable options for checkout through various sources.

Libraries are continuing to work towards reflecting their communities’ needs. Whether that be implementing library apps or providing a focal point for members in the community to gather and share information amongst each other.

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The changes of technology and meeting the needs of the majority of people using digital devices is making public community libraries shift and re-focus being a vital attraction for the community. For those who work and volunteer in the public library system, they feel that libraries are still needed and can evolve with the digital times.

“Truthfully, libraries have always been places of importance to their communities, but the emphasis of purpose may have shifted,” Ring said. “Technology is certainly part of that shift. Libraries help close the technology gap because we provide Internet access to everyone and training for those who might not have received it in school or did not grow up with technology.”

Some people might wonder if the libraries will become obsolete in time or if the information centers will continue to adapt to the changing world of technology. For community members who utilize and work in their community libraries, they do believe the library will always serve as a major resource.

“Libraries are places of great resourcefulness, (and) they will continue to evolve to meet the needs of their communities, whatever those needs might be. People will always have a need for information and assistance, and libraries will be there to provide that for them, one way or another, in person or remotely,” Ring said. “And we will be here to provide spaces, socialization, education, fun and, yes, good books to read.”

At the Barbara Bush Branch Library of the Harris County Public Library System, resources include audiotapes, CDs, videos, DVDs, and more than 130 public computers.

“Libraries have always kept up on the cutting edge of technology. In the old days, that meant we had microfilm and computers when other agencies did not,” Clara Maynard said, branch manager of the Barbara Bush Branch Library. “Now it means we teach classes on robotics, coding and 3D printing. We used to have newsletters, now we blog, tweet, chat, etc. on all the social media sites. We are always evolving to meet the needs of our users.”

The library, which first opened its doors in 1976 as the Cypress Creek Branch Library of the Harris County Library System, now circulates more than 1.2 million items annually.

Through the library’s app, people have access to streaming video, digital magazines, ebooks, music, and audio books. The library staff also go out into the community events to promote its services.

Last year, the Harris County Public Library System even implemented a digital challenge for the community.

“In 2016, Harris County Public Library challenged the community to check out a million digital items in OverDrive in one calendar year through a campaign called Project Mill-E. The community responded by checking out 1,172,621 digital items,” Linda Stevens said, division manager, programs, partnerships & outreach of HCPL. “In November of 2016 Harris County Commissioners Court and OverDrive recognized Harris County Public Library as the first library system in the state of Texas to check out a million digital items in a calendar year.”

Libraries are still seen to many people as places where others can come to learn and interact with one another. Some people might wonder if the libraries will become obsolete in time or if the information centers will continue to adapt to the changing world of technology.

“Technology may change, but people won’t. We may offer material in different formats, but people will still need a place to come, to learn, to connect,” Maynard said. “We’ll be in the community of the future, even if it’s a different venue.”

Library representatives believe there will always be a place for libraries in the community because the center serves as such a strong information source for the people in the community. Resources, amenities, and socialization are welcomed in libraries which serve as an incubator for the community to learn and grow.

“With all of the information and experiences that are shared through technology, libraries are a primary resource in the knowledge ecosystem and play a key role in stimulating thought, action, and learning,” Edward Melton said, Harris County Public Library director. “Public Libraries level the playing field by providing free access to a wealth of information and resources that may not be accessible in other places of the community.”

Lone Star College - Tomball Community Library

30555 Tomball Parkway

Tomball, TX 77375

Phone: 832-559-4200

Web: www.hcpl.net/location/tomball-college-community-library

Facebook: www.facebook.com/tomballlibrary

Twitter: @tomballlibrary

YouTube: LSC - Tomball Community Library

Barbara Bush Branch Library

6817 Cypresswood Drive

Spring, TX 77379

Phone:?281-376-4610

Web: www.hcpl.net/location/barbara-bush-branch-library-cypress-creek

Facebook: www.facebook.com/barbarabushlibrary/

Twitter: @barbarabushlib

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