Libraries have long been the go-to place for anyone seeking to read or borrow a book, magazine, or video. With advances in technology in the 21st century, this is rapidly changing. Nowadays, you can read a book from the comfort of your bed through apps, websites, or ebooks.
But what does this mean for librarians and other library workers? Will libraries become obsolete? If that ends up being the case, when will libraries become obsolete? In this article, we’ll show you if libraries will become obsolete in 10 years or if this is something you can look forward to for years to come.
Naturally, the number of visitors to libraries quickly plummeted in 2020 when libraries were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This doesn’t mean libraries are going out of style. This article will highlight how technology affects libraries and will share tips to future-proof the job sector for library visitors and workers.
What Is a Library?
A library is where you can find a wide range of books, videos, and other reading and research materials. Libraries play a fundamental role in promoting literacy, fostering creativity, and providing comfortable spaces for readers. In the United States, you can find over 100 thousand libraries across all states, with most being school and public libraries.
Although you can access a wide range of libraries countrywide, this hasn’t always been the case. Americans didn’t rely on libraries to acquire knowledge before the 18th century. This changed when Benjamin Franklin founded the first public library in 1731, the Library Company of Philadelphia. Since then, the number of libraries has steadily increased, with employment rates and a love of reading following suit.
Will Libraries Be Replaced by Future Technology?
The short answer is no. Although technology simplifies access to books, videos, and other materials, that doesn’t mean it can replace libraries. Many students, professionals, and regular people enjoy the comfort of being in a library setting. However, the incorporation of new technology into libraries to attract more readers and modernize the environment is essential, and here are five reasons why.
Libraries Maintain History
Libraries began as a way for people to store different kinds of information for future reference, making them the go-to place for anyone seeking legitimate historical data. People have had access to libraries dating back to the 18th century.
Moreover, most of these printed materials are published on acid-free paper, which withstands the test of time. Though you can access historical data through the Internet, it can be difficult to find accurate peer-reviewed information. When you visit a library, librarians will help you find a specific book or other research material which can serve as a legitimate source.
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Libraries Provide a Learning Environment
Despite laptops and Internet access being the norm in most homes or offices, many people still flock to the library to work or study as they provide a quiet environment. You also have access to different types of research materials in one area and unlimited access to the services of library staff.
Libraries Foster Relationships
Libraries focus on public education and contribute to building the community. Many libraries host book clubs and other events that allow people to connect and build relationships. For example, students can meet up for study groups and mothers can join story-time clubs. Book lovers can even form book clubs where they host events for book reviews.
Some may argue that digital book clubs also exist, but nothing beats human interactions and one-on-one discussions in a comfortable learning environment. It helps that you can also access several reference materials for your discussions.
Technologies and Trends That Could Make Libraries Obsolete
Although libraries are here to stay, technology does pose a threat to this industry. Nowadays, there are several ways to access books, historical information, and other resources outside the library. Below are three technologies and trends that could threaten library services in the future.
Reading Apps and Ebooks
Reading apps and ebooks are the biggest threat to libraries in the 21st century. According to the Pew Research Center, three out of 10 Americans prefer ebooks over reading paper books. The statistics may seem small, but it still translates to millions of library visitors. Additionally, the app development industry is still evolving, and many people prefer the convenience that comes with these apps.
Online Book Clubs
Online book clubs limit the number of people visiting libraries for in-person events. Nowadays, you only need your laptop or phone and an Internet connection to communicate with your club members. That means fewer people willing to commute to the library, and, as technology continues to provide avenues for people to do more from home, libraries may face difficulties maintaining their numbers.
Digital libraries are Internet sites featuring a wide range of books stored digitally. These sites are maintained by organizations or individuals seeking to tap into the reading economy in America by offering convenience. These libraries create a database of digital books which users navigate using a search bar, which is faster than walking through library sections.
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Future digital libraries will provide access to various multimedia and multi-type documents to accommodate all users. This move may affect how physical libraries operate.
When Will Libraries Become Obsolete?
Libraries play a significant role in every community, meaning they will not become obsolete soon, and, though technology may provide convenience, nothing beats the feeling of holding a paper book. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Library Association (ALA) states that American libraries still experienced a lot of activity. Curbside pickup, door-to-door, and even drone deliveries came into play as more people used books to cope with the restrictions.
Moreover, the biggest indication is the presence of libraries in most, if not all, schools in the country. School libraries provide access to educational resources and reduce the cost of buying books for parents. Students can borrow books and other learning materials all year round with a library card.
What This Means for Businesses
Libraries not becoming obsolete is good news for businesses. Business people use libraries to access information and other resources, as well as host events. Many start-ups attribute their success to public libraries, which allow unlimited access to their resources. Below is an in-depth look at how the presence of libraries impacts American business.
Business People Can Access Research Information
Establishing a start-up or growing your business involves a lot of research. You need to understand the field, who to target, how to handle competitors, and the general management ideology. Libraries carry a host of business books and multimedia resources, which are helpful for business people. In addition, library staff is qualified in information research.
Availability of Hosting Spaces for Businesses
Local libraries are always willing to collaborate with business people in ventures that contribute to the community. Many community organizations and small business owners can host workshops and training programs in libraries. These events bring together established and small-scale business owners who share ideas in an array of topics like taxes, marketing, management, and ecommerce.
Libraries Provide a Safe Space for New Businesses
Many start-ups even attribute their success to a private or public library that provided a safe space for creative exploration. Many jobless Americans spend time in libraries submitting job applications and researching business ideas. It also helps libraries incorporate makerspaces, giving businesses access to technology and space to create and explore interests.
Librarian Job Outlook
Before figuring out how to become a librarian, it is essential to research library workers’ job outlook and demands. Luckily, the job outlook for librarians seems promising, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. BLS projects a nine percent employment growth rate for librarians and library media specialists.
Currently, BLS projects approximately 15,200 job openings per year and 156,500 employees by 2030, indicating that libraries won’t become obsolete in the future. This means that pursuing a career as a librarian isn’t a bad idea.
How Much Money Will Librarians Earn in the Future?
There’s no definitive answer, but the salary outlook for library workers currently stands around $60,820 per year. This salary range can also go up to more than $90,000, depending on your employer, qualifications, and what field you specialize in.
Additionally, as the demand for librarians increases by nine percent in the next 10 years, the salary range is bound to go higher. The easiest way to ensure you maintain a good salary is to pursue a field that pays well. The highest-paying librarian careers include being a federal government librarian, a university librarian, a special librarian, and a curator.
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What Are the Best States for Librarian Jobs?
A survey by ZipRecruiter concluded that the best states to work in as a librarian include California, North Dakota, New York, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Librarians earn between $60,000 and $70,000 per year and a fair hourly wage of over $30 per hour. However, the high annual wages might be due to the high cost of living in these areas. You can work as a global, principal, engineering, or emerging technology librarian.
How to Avoid Becoming Obsolete: The Key to Future-Proofing Your Career as a Librarian
Like all other careers, ensuring your career can withstand the test of time is essential. It is easy for technology to replace what you do as a librarian, but you can future-proof your career with the right planning. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Understand How Libraries Operate
A successful career as a librarian depends on your ability to understand the inner workings of a library. Study essential skills like principles of selection, data organization, and provision. In addition, you must possess basic computer skills as well as interpersonal skills. If you can commit to the profession, you can thrive anywhere as a librarian.
Learn New Library Trends
The advent of technology also brought about changes for librarians. You must learn about new trends and technologies and how to incorporate them into the library. For example, you can learn about data analysis and digitization in a coding bootcamp and apply these skills to help library users access information.
If technology has taught us anything, it’s that change is inevitable in every profession. You may have thousands of library visitors today, but they may opt for digital libraries the next. As you future-proof your career, stay flexible and embrace what changes may come. You’ll notice that many libraries currently develop their digital libraries, ensure Internet connections, and host events to keep library users interested.
Do Libraries Have a Future?
Yes, the future of libraries is promising, and careers in this field will also survive the advance of technology. More people prefer paper books and comfortable reading and workspaces, making libraries essential. In addition, the impressive job growth rate stated by BLS is an indication that libraries are here to stay and merge with technology to provide better library services.
Will Libraries Become Obsolete? FAQ
Yes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, library workers expect a nine percent job growth rate over the next 10 years. This indicates that librarians are still in demand and that more libraries will be opening their doors to the public.
Yes. If you enjoy studying, researching, or helping people, a career as a librarian will suit you. In addition, librarians receive a fair annual wage, averaging $60,000 per year, with higher pay attainable depending on your chosen field.
The Internet is a strong competitor for libraries, as people can access information without leaving their houses. However, nothing beats the environment libraries provide as they are quiet and help you maintain a longer attention span. You can also interact with other readers and get help from qualified experts. Libraries also include Internet access for those visitors who prefer the best of both worlds.
Yes. Many people still go to the library. Every year, libraries across the country welcome millions of visitors collectively, indicating that libraries are still thriving. Despite the pandemic, people have still found ways to access books and other reading materials provided by libraries.
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