Like the footings beneath the shelves they line, books have traditionally formed the foundation of the services that public libraries offer their communities. However, with the shift from print to digital publishing, libraries face a battle in maintaining their status as bastions for learning, community engagement, workforce development and citizenship.
This challenge has not gone unnoticed by local-government budget-writers, who are increasingly likely to cut funding for libraries in favor of more “necessary” departments and programs. Nevertheless, library professionals remain hopeful that technology will help moderate inequities in areas such as access to information, educational achievement and economic opportunity. But to successfully leverage technology to this effect, we must make sure that those who make funding decisions see libraries not as stuffy stacks of yellowing pages but as modern community learning centers.
This can be achieved through thoughtful assessment and partnership. Here’s how:
First, libraries need to identify service gaps by evaluating the needs of their users against the services they provide. Technology can be a great help here, given the variety of data-driven mapping tools now available to help shape precise community profiles. These tools, typically employed for purposes of planning and zoning, offer libraries a detailed dissection of a neighborhood’s demographics, including education level, family composition and transit information.
Once libraries have this profile defined, they can assess how their services align with the community’s needs. One tool to assist in this effort is…