Digital vs. physical
It’s been a raging debate in the library industry for much of the last 20 years. But here’s the thing — there is no debate. Virtual libraries are NOT a threat to the library industry. And here’s why: Libraries are able to use their digital resources to elevate a traditional industry. Not only can they co-exist, but combining digital with physical can elevate the experience of both.
Physical doesn't mean outdated
Libraries are dynamic institutions that work with technology to extend their services. Unlike so many other industries that have been disrupted by technological advances, libraries across North America have shown an uncanny ability to adapt. Instead of groveling over the threat of tablets and eBooks, libraries have increased their offerings to patrons through virtual visits, electronic circulation, Wi-Fi use and in-house community programs. The problem is, that’s not obvious to the general public.
There’s still an outdated, generalized view of libraries as being passive places that only house books and are a last resort for finding information. That's why a key part of marketing the library’s services is with greater digital inclusion and access to digital literacy for all— especially for those in rural or remote regions and low-income populations. Because not everyone can afford a fancy tablet, phone, or even a function computer. The library has become a safe place that promotes equality by providing free resources to anyone that enters. Not many other public institutions offer quite as many tools and resources. And in such an altruistic way.
This is why the virtual library threat is overblown. Because physical libraries aren’t just a place to check out books — they’ve become a rallying point for the community. They offer events, classes, and expert professional advice. It’s a safe environment for students, seniors, and everyone in between.
Here’s a few fun facts to put this all in perspective:
- There are more than 17,000 public libraries in the U.S. alone. That’s more than Starbucks or McDonald's.
- Millennials are more likely to visit the library than any other generation. Which means libraries are necessary for future generations.
We live in a time where we're drowning in information. Which means we need guides to help us sort through all the noise. That's why modern librarians are less about shushing and shelving books, and more about helping patrons navigate mountains of data. It’s clear that libraries aren’t just a museum, but they’re an active resource. They offer direction and services you simply can’t get from just your laptop, phone, or tablet. The Internet may have removed the library's monopoly on knowledge, but it can’t replicate its sense of place. The library stands out as a public institution that actually makes our communities better by caring for its most vulnerable members by democratizing accessibility to resources. Despite technological disruptions across almost every industry, libraries remain inclusive. Books are displayed on shelves, where anyone can walk in and read them. Resources are free and open to anyone.
We don't have to choose one over the other
Virtual libraries aren’t a threat to physical ones. Actually, libraries are embracing and sharing valuable resources like 3D printers, design software, and digital offerings like PressReader. And if we're going to get to a place where digital and physical can harmonize, its necessary for libraries to adapt, rather than cling to tired traditions. It’s better to provide access to a wide collection of materials — both physical and digital resources. That’s how libraries will continue to innovate: by adapting to be better, faster, cheaper, more mobile, more convenient, and provide a more personalized experience for every patron.
PressReader can help your library bridge the gap between digital and physical. To find out how talk to sales.