OCTOBER 24, 2023
At PressReader, we focus a lot on how the role libraries play in their communities has shifted, and how it will continue to evolve. As the needs of patrons and the wider community in general change, libraries have embraced new functions. In this article, we'll look at the public library's role as a means for patrons to access digital resources.
The classic library concept — the notion of a physical location that is a repository of books for users to borrow, read and return — is still an entirely relevant one. It's undeniable, however, that digital transformation has impacted the library experience for librarians and patrons alike, in a significant way.
As is the case with most other aspects of our modern world, libraries had been adopting more and more technology prior to the onset of COVID-19, but the pandemic accelerated things in a way no one could have foreseen. The pandemic ramped up demand for eBooks and other electronic resources, with patrons all over the world borrowing 430 million digital items in 2020.
We also observed that, with many physical library branches temporarily closed, reading materials weren’t the only things that went digital during COVID:
[E]vent providers everywhere scrambled to bring live gatherings into a virtual space. Libraries offered everything from drag queen story hour to Zoom tutorials online, bringing many of their important services and community-building events to people in the comfort and safety of their own homes.
In addition to offering more digital resources, library workers expect their roles to include even more technology in the near future. The global library organization OCLC surveyed 1,627 respondents across 77 countries or territories about how they expect the library experience to change over the next decade.
Of public-library respondents polled, 62% said they expect an increase in the use of technology for marketing and communications, 53% for collection analysis, 52% for data analytics, and 50% for event management.
As for what they offer to their patrons, Modern libraries cater to the evolving needs of today's tech-savvy society with a vast array of digital resources, including eBooks, audiobooks, digital journals and databases. This allows users to access a wide range of materials from anywhere, at any time, with just a library card and an internet connection.
Users can borrow and return these materials online, eliminating the need to physically visit the library. This 24/7 accessibility caters to the diverse schedules of library users, making reading materials available whenever they are needed.
Many libraries offer digital platforms such as PressReader, which features thousands of publications from around the world. Remote access makes it possible for patrons to use PressReader from anywhere, at any time, all on their own devices.
Students use it for their research and learning. News buffs use it to stay on top of current events. Daily readers use it to catch up on their favorite publications, or to discover something entirely new.
A number of digital and online resources (including PressReader) are able to cater to individuals with diverse needs by providing accessibility features like adjustable font sizes, text-to-speech capabilities and support for screen readers. These features ensure that more users can enjoy the content.
PressReader isn't just to read the news. Babbel blogger, Thomas Moore Devlin's suggests that those learning a different language read news articles in that language to reinforce what they have learned.
"Once you’ve got the basics of grammar and vocabulary down," Devlin wrote, "you’re ready to start tackling more advanced material in your new language."
Devlin specifically recommended that language students use PressReader — which features newspapers and magazines in more than 60 languages. "You can search through the publications by language and topic, so you can discover the news that fits your niche," he wrote.
Another idea is to make use of PressReader's translation features, which can translate articles into more than 20 languages. That way, the reader can compare the same content in multiple languages.