To those equating community libraries to simple warehouses for printed matter whose utility is tied to our dependance upon bound books, some interesting news:
The American Library Association has just published its newest investigation into the state of the nation's public libraries, and the news is...actually rather good. You may think that odd in an era of ubiquitous alternative distractions to reading a real book--from iPads to Kindles--but it's really these new high-tech devices, along with the Internet that's keeping libraries flourishing. The one fly in the ointment is that funding cuts seem to be threatening many services.
While just a few years ago public libraries were all about borrowing books to read, or finding somewhere to study alongside handy text resources, the Net has changed much of this. Now 99.3% of the U.S.'s libraries offer Net access, via a public PC or open Wi-Fi, and 64% of libraries say they're the only free access point in their communities. With that figure stepping up to 73% for rural libraries, and 70% of libraries reporting that public use of their Net facilities increased in 2010, it's easy to see that the public library is still hugely relevant in a digital era.
It seems that [the library's] Internet nexus is extremely handy for people seeking jobs, via vacancy listings and other resources: 88% of libraries offer this, and 72% say their staff are helping clients fill in application forms. Meanwhile, 25% of libraries are in partnerships with government agencies and other groups to build e-government services--almost double the 13% figure from just two years ago. Though we live in a digital era that obviates many reasons to travel, it seems the library still is the social hub for data sharing.