The Growing Need for LIS During an Economic Crisis

By: Kalana Cooperlibrary_and_information_science

November 3, 2014

Will librarians be needed in the Job Market? We have to look at the impacts of the economic crisis on the LIS profession because there are some concerns. With technology heavily evolving, some may question whether or not there is a serious need for libraries and librarians. Will Ipads, tablets, smartphones, and Android devices replace libraries? I have heard these questions being asked and I am sure you have too; what are your thoughts? Personally I see a growing need for libraries, especially public organizations. Economic situations affect the work of all professions, we have lived through recessions, jobs come, go, and come back again, and the economy is cyclical. With a cyclical economy, we cannot assume that the LIS professionals will become antediluvians or even worse non-existent and replaced by androids! During an economic crisis, we much rather focus our attention on the growing need for libraries to assists users that are solely relying on libraries to access resources through collections and technology provided by LIS professionals. As Emily mentioned, it is vital for libraries to continue their missions to the community and adapt to the forever changing needs of the users. In addition to the ALA Fact Sheet 6, libraries are bridging the digital divide to underserved members of the community. For instance, it is a known fact that every library in the United States provide public access internet computers as a role central to its mission (Bo Kinney). The internet is very important especially to those that are unable to operate the computer, today, everything is digital and online it takes an LIS professional to introduce and teach someone the necessary researching skills to access documents for FEMA, healthcare, government assistance and the likes. During an economic crisis, the bigger issue of the crisis is the impact on communities and the libraries role in the matter. In the United States the current unemployment rate is at 5.9% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if we explore that figure more in complexity the total population in the United States is 316.1 million meaning that there are a lot of people that can’t afford internet access, computers, or daily access to the internet. Certainly there is a growing number of people that own cellular devices and smart phones, but are those devices nearly enough to take the places of LIS professionals. Members of disadvantage groups tend to use library computers because it is their only source for the internet the statistics shown below was taken from the Census in 2002. The more likely households to use libraries (Bo Kinney, 2010)

  • households in the Midwest (9.9%) and West (9.9%)
  • households in city centers (10%);
  • black, non-Hispanic (12.9%) and mixed race
  • ethnicity households (12.3%)
  • households with higher levels of education (10%–11.1% for households with at least one member who had attended college)
  • households below the poverty line (10.4%); households with children, particularly with students (17.9% of households with a high school student)
  • households with a job-seeker (17.1%)

The data above was from 2002 when the unemployment rate was at 5.7% which is very similar to today’s 5.9%. I mention these percentages, because public libraries are servicing large groups of people from different social, economic, and educational backgrounds. There is always going to be a growing population of individuals relying on public services such as the library for internet access. During Economic crisis and budget issues facing libraries today it is best to be smart, innovative, and provide services to communities by engaging people through programming events. There is a growing number of library users that appreciate and are utilizing the space for community organizations, town hall meetings, and gatherings. Libraries are offering 3D prints, knitting instruction, dance classes, and Zumba to draw in people. Free classes are now being offered on MSOffice, Social media, Coding and how to use your device. According to Katheryn Zickuhr, there is a relationship that Americans have with public libraries in the digital age. Public Library Engagement in the United States

  • 76% of adults read a book in some format over the previous year
  • The typical American read five books in the last 12 months (median)
  • 28% of American read and e-book in the previous year
  • 54% of Americans used a public library
  • 48% visited in person
  • 30%used the library website
  • 72% of American live in a library household
  • 91% of Americans says libraries are important to their community
  • 76%say libraries are important to them and their family

As Emily mentioned, there are some upper and middle class people that believe libraries are archaic, however there is evidence that indicates that people with hire levels of income have an appreciation for libraries and an understanding of the importance of their existence. Zickuhr examines typologies to examine library engagement into four broad levels High, medium, low and non-engagement. A three year study through Pew Research Center gives an overview of library lovers, as being a large group of women (62%) and parents (40%) with higher levels of income and education. (23%) are unemployed 25% is currently seeking employment, and 17% are students she also mentions that 35% of library lovers (omnivorous) are frequent library users as well however these statistics only makes up 20% of the population(2014). Public libraries are indeed facing issues with budgets and some are arguing that libraries are no longer relevant to society due to advanced technology and easy access to the internet. We should not forget the essential missions of the profession which is “to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” A.1.2 Mission. By being representative of our undertaking we are reassuring the public, and LIS professionals that our goal is to overcome the economic crisis by benefiting the public and not just ourselves.

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5 thoughts on “The Growing Need for LIS During an Economic Crisis

  1. It is interesting how people believe that Libraries are dying, but your demographic numbers prove the opposite even before technological advances. It’s also to forget that lower income families use the library for their electronic needs and not everyone has a functioning computer at home.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alyssa B. says:

    I think you’re right in your assertion that cellphones and other mobile devices cannot replace the services of the LIS professional. Yes these are valuable tools and have been recently instrumental in accessing information from libraries and also general information, but there is still a general need to have someone guide these information searches. LIS professionals are crucial to the act of information searching and teaching proper strategies for efficient and effective searches.

    It is important not to forget the mission of the librarian particularly when we realize that public and community libraries are essential and sometimes are the only source of resources and information for many people. Librarians act as leaders to a variety of users and hopefully with more promotion and outreach about the need for this service, the profession can begin to overcome the economic crisis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alyssa,
      I would have to agree, during our library visits project I was able to really see the importance of libraries. That project allowed me to have a clear understanding of how involved libraries are with communities and outreach through programming and events. During harsh economic times, I really see libraries as the ‘go to” location for patrons looking to utilize free services such as computer classes, internet, checking out material, and help with filling out government forms and employment applications. Libraries enhance the quality of life for diverse and dynamic communities. As libraries move into the future I honestly believe that they will hold on to the best of its services while meeting changing community needs. No matter what the economy will bring, communities will recognize the library as a vital force for expanding the mind, through literacy, embracing diversity, creating opportunities for individual and community development.

      *Kalana Cooper

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      • Rob says:

        Are there any plans for building new libraries within the community or just new cell towers? I believe there is a need for libraries just as I believe there is still a need for a newspaper but there is also something called supply and demand. As the number of libraries continues to shrink so will the need for the professionals that run them. The entire 5.9 percent of the unemployed population does not necessarily need a library. Children are now being given ipads to do classwork and they are helping to accelerate their learning. In the distant future… not now but maybe 50 years or so… I see the need for a librarian and the need for a blacksmith running neck and neck.

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    • I agree that even with the increasing number of people with access to computers and smart devices libraries still have a place today. Besides providing equipment and a physical location for accessing information, librarians are also important organizers of information. With the free for all of information on the internet it is important to have librarians who are able to curate reputable sources into easily accessible collections, both in print and digitally. -Page Kienzle

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