Have libraries found new relevance in the Internet age?

have libraries found new relevance in the internet age libraryQuick: What’s the point of a library?

If you said “To borrow books,” then you’re correct, but probably because you were born before 1990. A new study suggests that there’s a new answer quickly gaining ground on the traditional response, with more than three quarters of respondents describing free access to computers and the Internet as a “very important” service that libraries offer.

The study, titled Library Services in the Digital Age, was conducted by the Pew Research Center and looked at the question of what purpose (if any) libraries serve in an increasingly online world; a world where traditional books are en route to becoming more a relic of days of yore with the advent of digital publishing and e-readers. The results of this survey, however, suggest that the demand for libraries may be as high as ever – if for different reasons than traditionally – with an impressive 91 percent of those surveyed for the study (2,252 people aged 16 and over in the United States, interviewed between October 15 and November 10, 2012) saying they believed libraries are important to their families and communities, although they admitted that they weren’t aware of all of the services that libraries offer. Only 22 percent of respondents claimed to know most of the services offered, with 31 percent admitting that they knew “not much or nothing at all” about library services.

When asked about specific services, 80 percent of those asked said they believed that borrowing books was a “very important” service, the same percentage as those who believe that reference librarians are similarly “very important.” Surprisingly for some, however, computer and Internet access ranked almost as high, with 77 percent of those taking part in the survey describing that as very important. Oddly enough, only 26 percent of those taking part in the study admitted to using the computers or Internet in their local library, with 66 percent of them doing so for school or work-related research, and 63 percent also admitting to browsing the Web for fun or a way to pass the time while there.

Overall, interest in the library as a technical resource appears to be rising. A good 37 percent of survey respondents said they’d be “very likely” to use an online reference librarian service, with an additional 36 percent describing themselves as “somewhat likely” to do so. Additionally, 35 percent admitted they’d “very likely” use an app-based form of accessing library information and material, with another 28 percent calling themselves “somewhat likely.” The notion of libraries mirroring forms of entertainment distribution and recommendation already available was also popular, with 33 percent being “very likely” and 30 percent “somewhat likely” to use a Redbox-style kiosk to pick up and drop off material more easily. Lastly, 29 percent are “very likely” to use an Amazon-style recommendation service based upon their borrowing history (35 percent described themselves as “somewhat likely” to do so).

On top of all of this, 53 percent of those taking part said that libraries should “definitely” offer a broader selection of e-books. It appears that there’s a bright future for libraries out there, after all; all they have to do to get there is be willing to change just a little – and let everyone know that they have.

Emerging Tech

Shrimp eyes inspire new camera focused on helping self-driving cars see better

By mimicking the vision of mantis shrimp, researchers were able to make significant improvements on today’s commercial cameras. They hope their technology can help mitigate accidents by letting self-driving vehicles see more clearly.
Home Theater

The best MP3 players of 2018

Want to go for a run, but your phone is weighing you down? No worries. Can't fit your whole music library on your smartphone? Don't sweat it. Check out our list of the best MP3 players, and find one that works for you.
Gaming

Jump into an internet DeLorean and play free Commodore 64 games online

The Internet Archive has added more than 8,800 full Commodore 64 games to its software library. Here's how you can play them completely free in your browser without the need for a joystick.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this summer with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Emerging Tech

This intelligent parachute system can bail out clumsy drone pilots

Parachutes can save drones when they unexpectedly fall from the sky. Among a number of such systems, Austrian firm Drone Rescue is this week showing off its latest design that automatically deploys when it senses trouble.
Cars

‘Bloodhound’ rocket car needs a speedy cash injection to survive

The rocket-powered Bloodhound car has driven into difficulties, with the company behind the project needing a multi-million-dollar cash injection to save its dream of attempting a 1,000 mph land speed record.
Emerging Tech

Tokyo robotic warehouse needs almost no human workers

Uniqlo has unveiled its first robot-powered warehouse that requires 90 percent fewer human workers to operate. The Japanese clothing giant plans to invest close to $1 billion dollars to convert all of its warehouses worldwide.
Emerging Tech

Curious how A.I. 'brains' work? Here's a super-simple breakdown of deep learning

What is deep learning? A branch of machine learning, this field deals with the creation of neural networks that are modeled after the brain and adept at dealing with large amounts of human-oriented data, like writing and voice commands.
Emerging Tech

Drop everything and watch Boston Dynamics’ robo-dog dance to ‘Uptown Funk’

After a few years of Earthbound training, Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot dog is ready to take on Mars. Bruno Mars, to be precise. Check out Skynet's future pet as you've never seen it before.
Emerging Tech

Self-correcting quadcopter can keep itself aloft even if one rotor fails

Most quadcopters won't fly unless all four rotors are functioning. But what happens if one gets damaged during flight? Researchers from the Netherlands think they've come up with a solution.
Emerging Tech

MIT is building a new $1 billion college dedicated to all things A.I.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced a new $1 billion college of computing designed to offer the best possible education to future machine learning A.I. experts.
Emerging Tech

This gadget lets you sleep on airplanes without snuggling a stranger

Odd gadget, or a hug for your face? The Napup Fly+ is a travel pillow, sleep mask, and personal speaker system all rolled into one, attached to the back of the headrest to hold your head up.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.