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Despite the Digital Age, the Library is Not in Danger of Extinction

National Library Week is April 15-21

April 17, 2007

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Most people would describe it as the place full of books, periodicals, CDs and DVDs. While part of that definition may have been true several years ago, it is outdated, as today's library is offering a variety of services. One University of Missouri-Columbia professor claims the library is far from being extinct and is actually a portal to an unending wealth of information.

"When television came into homes, people who previously read books also started watching TV, but they still kept reading. People do not trade one medium for another," said Doug Raber, associate professor and academic outreach coordinator in the MU College of Education's School of Information Sciences and Learning Technologies. "The introduction of new technologies, such as the Internet, will cause libraries to adapt and will bring new users into the library."

The American Library Association (ALA) reports that the majority of libraries in the United States have Internet access. According to Raber, libraries usual incur the cost of subscriptions to Internet databases and academic journals to bring these services to their patrons for free. This is access to information that most people cannot get just from simply surfing the Web at home. Librarians also provide guidance and knowledge about where to find information.

"The library also presents itself as a neutral space for many meetings and gatherings," Raber said. "Literacy programs for adult learners often take place in libraries. A school may seem more intimidating to them than the library, since that may have been a place where they did not experience success."

The National Center for Education Statistics found that 30 million adults in America have below basic literacy skills, including seven million who are considered to be non-literate in English. Ninety-four percent of public libraries serving more than 5,000 people provide literacy services, and 75 percent of public libraries partner with other agencies and organizations in their communities to provide adult literacy services.

In a survey conducted for the ALA and The Campaign for America's Libraries, Americans named the four most important characteristics or services of public libraries as being that the services are free (79 percent) and that the library "is a place where I can learn for a lifetime" (71 percent), "enhances my education" (65 percent) and "provides information for school and work" (65 percent). Moreover, three-quarters of respondents strongly agreed that because it provides free access to materials and resources, the public library plays an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed.

"The School of Information Sciences & Learning Technologies at MU is committed to graduating librarians prepared to use traditional sources and new technologies to ensure that everyone gets this chance," Raber said.