Public Libraries Respond to Technology-Focused Library Patrons; Adding Tablets to Their Collections

Public libraries are today in the midst of a major transition. As library patrons become more technology-focused and mobile-oriented, the pressure for public libraries to follow suit and offer improved e-services is increasing. Over the past few years, the popularity of e-lending at public libraries (predominately in North America and Europe) has skyrocketed, reflecting evolving consumer trends: 2012 was the first year in which sales of e-books outstripped the sales of print books.1

Not surprisingly, the increase in the demand for e-services at public libraries is concurrent with the rise in smartphone and tablet ownership. Recent survey findings by Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that smartphone ownership amongst adults in the U.S. increased to 56% this year and tablet ownership doubled to 36%.2 Meanwhile, a separate study by the research group on library usage highlighted that 77% of Americans felt that internet services were “very important library services.”3

E-books, video streaming and digitally-enhanced newspapers and magazines for mobile devices are the high-value e-services that library patrons are demanding. Conscientious librarians like Cathy Sanford of California’s Contra Costa County Library understands this well. In a State Tech Magazine article about the emerging technologies in library services, she insightfully remarked, “Our goal is to be where our customers are, and they’re glued to that phone.”4

To complement their e-services, libraries are adding tablet devices to their collections. A Research and Markets survey reported the following statistics on tablet acquisitions5:

  • Libraries that serve a population of less than 10,000 plan to spend an average of $468.67 and a maximum of $5,000 in the next year on tablet computers
  • 28.85 percent of the libraries surveyed stated that it was highly likely they would purchase an Apple tablet over the next three years
  • 70% of libraries that serve a population of more than 100,000 have purchased tablets for library staff use