Technology brings new role to public libraries

Tucked under a public library computer keyboard was an anonymous note: “Thank you for helping me get a job.” The paper scrap turned up at downtown Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, where staff members say their 160 computers are enabling unemployed people to find jobs, do homework, or manage their budgets, reports the Baltimore Sun. “From McDonald’s to McDonnell Douglas, 85 percent of all hiring is done online,” said Pratt CEO Carla D. Hayden. “In a city like Baltimore, where 30 percent of the population has no home computer access, we have found a new role.” The banks of crowded computers illustrate the changing role of libraries, where technology is replacing paper and the throngs keep coming. Libraries are busy providing research services, such as job hunting and resumes, to people who don’t have these resources at home. And more changes are on the way, such as plans to allow electronic books to be downloaded for free on reading devices. The new technologies are boosting library use and drawing in new constituencies, transforming once staid reading rooms into highly diverse mixes of students, seniors, and job seekers intent on finding answers…

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