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Libraries are abuzz with services that go beyond traditional fare to offer more active programming for patrons. The title of a recent talk at the Wisconsin Library Association sums up the new philosophy in programming: "From Repository to Experience: Library Becomes a Verb."
New initiatives include Glenview's drive-up window for customers' pick-up orders; Oak Park, Skokie and Arlington public libraries' off-site book discussions; and Arlington's tech "petting zoo," which allows patrons to test various models of computer tablets.
Chicago Public Library recently rolled out several new services. All of its 80 branches offer Teacher in the Classroom, an after-school program to aid students with homework. In the summer, Chicago instituted the Summer Learning Challenge to counteract students' usual "summer slide" after school lets out: 71,000 students read a reported 2.1 million books.
But a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday reveals, somewhat surprisingly, given stories about the "death of print" as well as the scant resources sometimes devoted to these establishments, that the majority of Americans strongly value their public libraries. When asked whether the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their communities, 90 percent of American adults (ages 16 years and older) said yes, it would, and 63 percent said the impact would be "major." When asked if library closures would affect them and their families personally, only 32 percent responded the way I would have—with a "no."
The Pew Internet & American Life Project surveyed more than 6,000 Americans ages 16 and older in July and August of this year in English and Spanish. The results show that most Americans believe libraries are important parts of their communities and are doing a good job at keeping up with technology.
Books remain the most important aspect of libraries -- far more than the Internet. Eighty percent of respondents rated books and media either "very important" or "somewhat important."
We’ve mostly gotten used to geo-location: That's tech that lets you ask your phone, “Where’s the nearest gas station?” Of course, it also lets the government ask your phone company, “Where were you yesterday at 2 p.m.?”
This is cicro-location. The iBeacon feature in the Apple Store app uses Bluetooth to pinpoint where you are in the Apple store. Other stores, like Macy’s, say they’re going to use it too.
Attorney Jennifer Lynch monitors privacy issues with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She says iBeacon could actually be an upgrade from what we’ve seen before.
"At least for this one, the user knows that the app is downloaded onto the phone," she says. "There are other location-tracking systems that stores use, where the user has no idea."
Do we care? Kathryn Zickuhr from the Pew Research Center has done surveys. She says about a third of adults say they’ve turned off geo-location services on their phone, at least sometimes.
Yes, people get a little concerned about how much of this data companies keep. "But really, people tend to be more concerned about personal threats," she says, "like hackers."