Lure of libraries

Technology, it seems, has killed many, many things. Meaningful relationships, written letters, creativity, physical work, print publications and — of course — books. At least, that’s what many would have you believe. I just don’t believe it, though. 

As a member of an industry I’m constantly being told is dying, I just shrug and keep serving our readers the best way we know how. And just like good journalism isn’t going anywhere, neither is the written word. 

Sure, videos grab attention. Photos catch our eye. But long-form storytelling has survived centuries — coming in many forms. It survives today.

Many trend-watchers also point to figures that show the slow decline of libraries.

In the April 2016 edition of The Atlantic, an article described the state of libraries in the U.S. 

“On the one hand, Americans still adore their libraries. According to a new Pew Research study, 76 percent of Americans say that libraries well serve the needs of their community. And since 78 percent of Americans say they’ve been to a local public library ever, it seems that nearly everyone who’s been to a local library at least once in their lives approves of them.

Yet on the other hand, fewer and fewer Americans are using the institutions every year. In the 12 months before the most recent Pew survey was given, only 44 percent of Americans visited a local library or bookmobile. Three years earlier 53 percent of Americans had visited a library or bookmobile.”

Again — I understand the appeal of other sources of entertainment (movies, podcasts, etc.), but there’s something ever-so-appealing about holding a book in your hands, turning the pages and smelling the age in its binding.

Yes, I’m a millennial who cannot stand reading books on a Kindle, iPad or any other electronic device.

When I was in graduate school (I just finished the two-year program in July 2017), I spent many hours in the library. I didn’t necessarily check out any books, but I enjoyed the quiet bustle of the facility. People wandered the stacks, conducted research in The Wyoming Room and read with their children. The setting offered quiet appeal.

Why, then, are fewer people utilizing libraries while maintaining their love for them?

The Pew Research study suggested that people don’t know about the digital offerings local libraries have. Did you know you could borrow an ebook from the Sheridan County Public Library System? What about digital magazines? 

Another study, cited from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, suggests that a downward trend in revenues — mostly in the form of local government funding — played a role in the decline in use of libraries.

“We found that as investments, such as revenue, staffing and programs, increased, so did critical use measures, such as visitation and circulation,” The Atlantic article cited the IMLS. “In the same way, as investments were reduced, mostly in reaction to post-recessionary budgetary reductions, we saw decreases in library use. Another important finding is that even though investments might have declined, any decreases in use did not drop by the same magnitude. People continue to use their local public libraries — for access to books and information and for gathering as a community.”

Our local library system offers a number of reasons to gather — book readings, speakers, discussions and more. Not all of the events are organized by the library, but many know the library is a neutral meeting space for various community conversations.

If you haven’t stopped into one of the facilities that comprise the Sheridan County Public Library System, I hope you will soon. They have a lot to offer.

Plus, it’s the perfect time of year to curl up with a good book (or ebook, digital magazine, DVD, audio book, etc.).

By |January 5th, 2018|

About the Author:

Kristen Czaban has been with The Sheridan Press since June 2008 and has covered the entire gamut of beats including government, crime, business and the outdoors. Before heading west, she graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s in journalism. Email Kristen at: