Public Libraries Embrace Emerging Technology

Libraries have long been responsible for providing communities with access to critical written resources, but customers are increasingly looking for more than just books.

As the needs of the community evolve, Libraries have been forced to evolve Expansion of your range of necessary technologies such as WiFi hotspots So people can access the internet for free. This is often referred to as the “Library of Things” or LoT.

Libraries in Deerfield, Illinois, Concord, Massachusetts, and Altadena, California have added new technology and other technical tools to their collections for community members to take home.


The Deerfield Public Library in Illinois offers new technologies to its customers.

As multimedia librarian Ted Gray described, one of the things librarians learn in their school is adapting to the needs of the community. The LoT collection at the Deerfield Public Library is a good example of this guiding principle, Gray said.

He explained that some communities may have needs for items such as cooking utensils, but Deerfield customers are very tech-savvy. It therefore makes sense for the library to offer some “technical toys” such as VR glasses and drones. This would allow people to try these technologies for themselves and learn about their uses without having to buy them.

During COVID-19, the needs of the community have shifted, as have the needs for the LoT. Last year, Gray stated that some of the most popular check-out items were WiFi hotspots, Roku streaming devices, and LED projectors for outdoor movies. Some of the technology is even supported by tutorials in the library Youtube page.

The collection doesn’t have a huge budget, Gray said, but new items are bought annually. The return on investment comes from the fact that most of these items are much higher than many of the books the library buys because of the high demand, he explained.


The LoT at the Concord Free Public Library in Massachusetts was originally created to give the community access to things they needed, such as: B. WiFi hotspots.

What’s unique about Concord’s LoT is that the collection addresses two very different demographics in different age groups, explained Andi Graceson, specialist in library innovation and communication. She explained that assistive technologies and digital conversion technologies are very popular with older residents, but emerging technologies are more aimed at younger populations.

In addition to simple VR glasses connected to a smartphone, Concord’s range includes a unique collection of coding toys for children. While an adult must review these items, the toys in this collection are recommended for children ages three and up to gain a basic understanding of coding and practice basic science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills.

Graceson stated that more technologies will be added as new technologies emerge and stressed the importance of offering older technologies that are difficult to acquire, including the film to JPEG converter.

Like any library collection, the Concord LoT will evolve with the needs of the community.


In Altadena, California, LoT offerings range from VR glasses to a “ghost hunting kit” for teenagers and are particularly interesting as the program was launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While offering such a collection has been a topic of discussion for some time, the pandemic caused the library to “take action”, according to Viktor Sjöberg, deputy director of the Altadena Library District.

Sjöberg said the inability to rent items in demand – like laptops – during the lockdown was what kicked off the program. He said some of the items are inexpensive tools designed to help parents enhance the learning experiences for their children. Other items in the collection are more expensive, such as: B. the virtual reality glasses from Oculus. More complex items – like the telescope – come with detailed lists of parts and components, so a user will only be billed for a missing or defective component.

The library team is working to educate the community about the resources available and continue to develop solutions for some of the program specifications.

Sjöberg said it is important that the library recognize its role in the sharing economy. For this reason, the library tries, whenever possible, to source articles from local suppliers and to offer articles that are specifically tailored to the specific needs of the community.

“Libraries are based on sharing community resources, and we want to continue building on that and also create a more sustainable Altadena,” he said. “We are also very much looking forward to the churches to help us have this conversation about what they need and how they feel this is their aspiration.”

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