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Public libraries move towards technological community resources

Online library design in isometric vector illustration
Ali Kerem
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Getty Images

Public libraries offer much more than the latest books. Whether it's classes on how to do your taxes or learn a new language. This free resource is a staple in any community. As the world becomes more high-tech and digitally focused, public libraries are trying to incorporate these new technologies to better serve their community.

Abigail Phillips is an assistant professor at the school of information studies at UW-Milwaukee, whose work is focused on public libraries. She explains the technological shift in libraries in response to their utilization in the school system.

“So we have every branch you'll go into, you'll see a huge room of computers where people are doing resumes, or filling out job applications or just doing their homework,” says Phillips.

Public libraries have become a hub for providing educational resources through virtual learning in response to the pandemic. As a result, libraries act as societal educators rather than spaces for academic help, which has overwhelmed some staff.

“There's been a huge bunch of librarians and library workers who have left the profession just because they're so overwhelmed. So I think finding the right staffing and finding people who are really interested in educating the public is really key,” says Phillips.

Phillips emphasizes the importance of teaching digital literacy skills in their work with students as more kids are online at earlier ages.

She explains that librarians are great educators for progressing digital technology skills in all community members. "A lot of librarians are very proactive about talking about misinformation and disinformation that you see on the internet," she says.

With a minimal budget, the Milwaukee Public Library Mitchell Street Branch still finds the funding for technological advancements. They are currently offering community members a recording studio, a kitchen for bettering cooking skills, a 3D printer, a laser cutter, and a maker space.

While all libraries are suffering from budgeting issues, Phillips specifically cites school libraries being particularly in danger. Students often have to turn to public libraries for resources they are supposed to get from their schools.

Mallory Cheng joined WUWM as a producer for Lake Effect in 2021.
Cait Flynn joined WUWM in June 2022 as an assistant producer for Lake Effect.
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