The advent of the internet has given us many things — cat videos, Instagram filters, instantaneous pizza delivery. But most importantly, the internet has revolutionized the way we access information. These days, Wikipedia is the de facto encyclopedia, and Google turns up search results faster than you can say “Dewey Decimal System.”
So, what happens to libraries in the digital age? Survey data shows that libraries’ roles are changing — they’re no longer considered the starting point for research. And academic libraries report increased spending on e-resources as traditionally print collections move online.
Libraries are evolving. However, one thing remains unchanged: they play a vital role in our communities. Libraries bring people together, offer accessible information and provide educational programs for all ages. Here’s a look at 8 small-but-mighty public libraries expertly embracing 21st century tech.
Beacon analysts collected county-level library data on a number of metrics: volume of digital/technological resources (e-books, downloadable titles, internet-enabled computers and more), annual active Wi-Fi sessions and number of registered library users. Then, the team aggregated these factors to determine which county libraries have both the resources and reach to serve as technological community centers. Here’s our short list.
Albany Public Library
The Albany Public Library serves Oregon’s Willamette Valley with two unique branches: the original Carnegie-era library sits on the corner of historic downtown, just a couple miles from the 40,000-square foot Main Library. Since opening its doors in 2009, the APL’s future-ready facility has emerged as the city’s undisputed information hub. In addition to free Wi-Fi throughout the library, the APL keeps patrons completely connected with the Library2Go digital consortium.
Timberland Regional Library
The expansive Timberland Regional Library system covers five counties across Washington’s pacific coast. With 27 locations featuring state-of-the-art electronic services, the TRL benefits more than 475,000 citizens throughout the Evergreen State. And with the all-new TRL mobile app, countless more have access to TRL’s catalog online. The library also provides free MyTRL accounts for K-12 students in the Olympia School District. This digital resource center gives students access to online homework help, e-books and more.
Harford County Public Library
Bel Air, MD
Over the course of its 70-year history, the Harford County Public Library has grown from a single location to include 11 branches. (And that’s before you count its two bookmobiles.) The Rolling Reader mobile library provides books for students at after-school programs and literacy centers, while the Silver Reader focuses on Harford county’s senior population. In addition to these innovative outreach programs, the library leads the way with an interactive early literacy learning center and online development programs.
Chattahoochee Valley Libraries
Looking to get connected? Check out the Chattahoochee Valley Library. This seven-branch system combines traditional resources and innovative tech to keep citizens in the know. At every CVL location, visitors enjoy free Wi-Fi and access to web-enabled public computers. For community members who can’t make it into the library, there’s a CVL mobile app that’s loaded with online resources — and an outreach bookmobile that’s always on the move.
Washington County Library
The Washington County Library System’s mission is multifaceted: to advocate for its citizens, to inspire lifelong learning and to provide accessible resources. Across all 14 branches, the WCLS offers a robust library of e-books, audio books and print materials, plus a variety of educational events. Between its advanced tech and online learning tools, there’s no question that the WCLS empowers patrons to explore, engage and connect. Mission: complete.
Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library
The Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library enriches southern Indiana with 8 unique locations across Vanderburgh county. The library system provides top resources, services, facilities and courses — all while upholding its commitment to environmental stewardship. In an effort to provide exposure to science, technology, engineering and math, the EVPL provides STEM-focused programs on a wide range of topics including robotics, coding, 3D printing and video game design. These classes are designed to inspire kids and teens to explore these rapidly-growing, tech-centric disciplines.
Medina County District Library
Medina County District Library provides a tech-first experience, all the way down to its library eCards. In addition to 6 different physical locations and one Library on Wheels bookmobile, Ohioans enjoy the MCDL’s online resource portal, complete with databases, e-courses and more. By more, we really mean more — the MCDL offers free access to 7 million digital songs, magazines, video streaming services and even an online anthology featuring independently-published local authors.
Lima Public Library
In the race to go digital, Lima Public Library is well ahead of the curve. With exciting community events and free wireless access at all six branches, the Lima Public Library serves as the community center of Allen County. The LPL offers educational and recreational experiences at its physical locations. But patrons also have the option to go completely digital. Rent an ebook from the Ohio Digital Library, learn a new language online with Mango Languages or stream hit TV shows through Hoopla. Better yet, try all three.
Libraries and the future
Public libraries have always been a place for discovery, innovation and imagination. As learning styles change, the best way to keep this core mission intact is to adapt. All 8 of our top library systems have proven that traditional and digital can work in tandem — and that libraries can thrive in a tech-first world.