The three biggest challenges facing libraries attempting to maintain equal access to the torrent of new information and technologies are interconnected.
I’ll start with the librarians and library staff. It is admittedly hard for librarians, the organizers of information, to keep track of all the new information and new ways information is presented. It’s hard even for self-professed geeky librarians. Ideally, there should be at least one staff on board who knows most of the new information technology as a part of the job description. There should also be supplemental staff serving as go-to persons for expertise in a particular area, much like the subject specialists at university libraries.
In order to have knowledgeable staff, they must be trained continually, in order to effectively serve and teach patrons through several means including computer classes and generally being available to help patrons with their on-the-spot needs. While some library users are better off and own their own computers, expecting fully functional free Wi-Fi and good e-books to check out online, others aren’t as fortunate and must get their technology fix at the library. Immigrants are another group, like the poor, who sometimes have difficulty with the newer information applications. Staff have to be confident enough with their tech skills in order to help the patrons.
Of course, to train the staff to train the patrons, to keep computers current enough, to have extra PCs for computer classes, to have spare staff to teach these classes, to stock expensive e-readers and e-books, all of these require money. Not many libraries have the funds to provide the service they so much want to provide.
Doesn’t everything come back to money money money?