Libraries are always evolving, sometimes because of new technology, sometimes because of their needs of their community. And sometimes a global pandemic changes everything. Here are some ways that I think public libraries might change in response to shifting usage habits as a result of the pandemic.
Smaller DVD Collections
Many people subscribed to streaming services during the start of lock-downs and while public libraries were closed. This may reduce the demand for DVDs in the future, leading libraries to slim down their collections and allocate money for other parts of the collection–perhaps for more ebooks or other digital content.
Less Computer/Internet Usage
Public libraries pride themselves on the ability to meet the needs of the community beyond books and one of their biggest selling points in recent years has been that they provide public computer and internet access, and often even WiFi hotspots for patrons to check out. Since the pandemic has highlighted the digital divide, however, many local governments have looked at internet access more closely. If internet access is expanded in the future, fewer people will have to go to the public library for this service.
More Hybrid Programs to Increase Accessibility
Many libraries purchased subscriptions to digital platforms that allowed them to do virtual programming during the pandemic. Some may choose to keep virtual or hybrid programming as an option so they can reach people who cannot make it to programs in person.
New Services to Increase Accessibility
Some libraries may choose to keep other services that they began to offer during the pandemic. Curbside checkout, for instance, may be a permanent feature at some libraries, as might other ideas libraries experimented with–kits for pickup, librarian-curated book bundles for checkout, etc.
What are your predictions for the future of libraries? And how might they evolve in response to the pandemic?