Removing Barriers to Access in Public Libraries

technology-pic

For many of us, the use of multiple forms of technology is a normal part of our day. Access to the Internet is at our fingertips almost wherever we are with the help of computers, smartphones, and electronic devices. However, there are still many who struggle with using technology. Two of the biggest reasons often cited for not using technology are not knowing how to use it, and not having access to it.

This is where public libraries come in. Public Libraries are, for many, the places that break down those barriers and open up access to technology. (See: http://www.ala.org/news/state-americas-libraries-report-2014/public-libraries) Still, despite these needs and uses, barriers still exist. To help break down some of these barriers, libraries are implementing programs and offering resources to help their communities gain greater access to technology and resources.

Programming

Libraries have begun implementing programs to encourage patrons to return to the library after being kept away due to fines and missing items. Read Down Your Fines programs encourage reading while allowing people to bring down their fines; fines that may have previously kept them out of the library. (Herrick District Library, 2017) Fine Amnesty days allow patrons to return items no matter how long they have been checked out. When the items are returned, all fines attached to them are forgiven. Chicago Public Library implemented such a program. They reported that over 37,509 patrons were able to return who hadn’t been able to access library resources for many years. They also recovered over 100,000 items worth almost two million dollars over a two-month period. (Urban Libraries Council, 2013)

Technology

While most public libraries provide access to internet and computers within the building, more and more libraries are also looking at new ways to provide internet services and technology outside of the building. Libraries have begun pilot programs that allow patrons to checkout internet hotspots and take them home, giving patrons an opportunity to use the internet outside of normal library hours. (Collie, 2014)

If patrons are unsure of how to use technology, some libraries have begun putting tutorials on their websites. (Herrick District Library, 2017) This allows patrons to access the information and begin learning about technology even if the library does not have the staff time and resources to teach technology classes.

Advocacy/Awareness/Collaboration

While libraries work hard to provide programs and resources to patrons, all of these efforts cannot be done alone. Within communities are other businesses, organizations, and community advocates with whom partnerships can be made to bring more services to the community. Communication with policymakers about the needs of the community can help implement new laws and funding. Working together and with others, libraries can continue to break down barriers and open new doors for their community.

References:

Carmichael, J. (2014, April 13). Public libraries. Retrieved February, 2017, from http://www.ala.org/news/state-americas-libraries-report-2014/public-libraries

Collie, V. (2014, May 7). Chicago public library to begin “hotspot at home” pilot project. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved February, 2017, from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2014/05/chicago-public-library-to-begin-hotspot-at-home-pilot-project/

Eliminating barriers to access. (2013). Retrieved February 2017, from http://www.urbanlibraries.org/eliminating-barriers-to-access–innovation-863.php?page_id=169

(n.d.). Retrieved February, 2017, from http://www.herrickdl.org/

(n.d.). Retrieved February, 2017, from http://www.herrickdl.org/online-training