These days, finding information is as easy as pressing a button on your phone or asking Google for help. The internet has become a necessity in everyday life, so it would seem libraries are losing their relevance in this age of technology, right?
Wrong. Although mostly known as places to get books, today's libraries also provide a multitude of services that reach beyond something as simple as pressing a button on your smart phone. Lee Franklin, community relations manager for Phoenix Public Libraries, says the reasons and need for public libraries today are just as obvious now as they were 20 years ago.
"What you will find at any public library and specifically Phoenix Public Library is an enormous host of vetted and reliable materials, services, education, programs and access to information (and all for free) that is not replaced anywhere else within our societies," Franklin says.
Franklin added, libraries are "in existence for every individual in the community no matter their income level, ethnicity, age, ability or location." Not only do libraries provide a safe haven for the community, they also provide an outlet for kids, teens and adults to learn and pursue knowledge, free of charge.
"More than just 17 locations that house books on shelves, Phoenix Libraries are advocates for members of our community to have access to information regardless of the platform or medium and we champion civic engagement and life-long learning," Franklin says.
Approximately 15 percent of people do not have readily available access to the internet, and that is one of the many services offered at Phoenix Public Libraries. Not only are there computers to use, but free Wi-Fi is also offered at all 17 locations.
The libraries have more than 1 million materials available for checkout, and host around 100,000 daily visits to their websites. Along with this, they provide a multitude of different services geared toward every member of the community.
There is the College Depot, which provides a college access program for those who want to pursue education, with help in applying for schools and securing funds. There are Early Literacy programs, computer coding programs, a MACH1 program, and The Hive @ Central, which provides resources and materials for job seekers.
The libraries also provide health and wellness services such as the Kid's Café, which provides meals to children at the library six days a week. They also hold cultural events and educational programs.
"I go to the library every week. They always have events going on that are great for adults and youngsters. Most recently there was a reptile event where they even brought a baby alligator," said Gia Carbonaro, who frequents the Arabian branch on McDowell Mountain.
"Libraries are a great resource for information via the web or hard literature. You can use the library's resources for critical research techniques or take part in one of their tutoring programs," said Christian Cook.
Although the internet is a valuable tool that offers information at the click of a button, it still does not compare to the internet-related services offered by the libraries.
Franklin points out that the internet is not always a credible source, and the library has "professional information managers that have an expertise in assisting every single one of our library customers in finding the right piece of information to fit their needs AND that any information and its sources is legitimate, vetted, researched and credible."
So, the internet is, of course, one of the greatest tools of information we have today, but it will never fully compare to all of the services offered at the public library.
"Public libraries have always been relevant because we advocate for life-long learning, and free access to information and knowledge for everyone across the board. It really doesn't matter what the medium or platform is, it will always need to be paired with public libraries," Franklin said.
The writer is a freelancer
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