Local Libraries Continue To Find Value in a Changing World

Brendan Swogger

In the past decade, technology has continued an upheaval of a culture that once was, moving most of life’s necessities to a digital frontier. Libraries have been one of the biggest institutions impacted by these changes. Though many may see libraries as dinosaurs in a changing world, their value in the community is as apparent as ever, as they continue to adapt their services to best fit the world we live in.

“In the last few years, with the internet and the way people have been doing business, all of that has changed so dramatically,” said Colleen Winters, Library Director at Forest Grove City Library. “What libraries are doing all over the country is to try to ensure that people don’t think of us as a place that just has books and that we are relevant and necessary.”

Forest Grove City Library, located on Pacific Avenue, has been at the forefront of this situation. 

“One of things that has changed is that with devices and Kindles and people downloading books, we have people–avid readers–who never set foot in [the library] because they download,” said Winters. “They can download our collection of ebooks from their home and they don’t need to come here to do that.”

As part of the Washington County Cooperative Library System, Forest Grove City Library offers many digital and online resources. Cardholding members gain access to services such as Kanopy, a streaming service that offers a large catalogue of foreign and independent films.

As more resources have moved online, Pacific University’s own library has been working to adapt their services to new technologies. As Dean of Libraries at Pacific Isaac Gilman says Pacific has increased their investment in online journals, databases, e-books, and other media.

“In general, the Libraries have been on the leading edge at Pacific in adapting and using technology to support teaching and learning activities at the University,” Gilman said. Pacific’s library system offers many digital resources to students, such as online peer tutoring services.

Though many library services have transitioned into the digital age, Gilman also points out that there is still a huge value in access to physical media, especially when it comes to academia.

“Despite appearances to the contrary, not all information is online,” he said. Aside from regular collections, Pacific’s library houses a significant collection of documents and other artifacts in the Archives. “While some of these items have been digitized and made available online, there is much that is still only accessible in physical form.”

Forest Grove City Library also still finds value in non-digital aspects of the world, specifically when it comes to public events. Programs such as children’s storytimes, writing workshops, or book sales have been especially popular with the community.

“Now everything’s changed in the last couple of weeks because of the [Coronavirus],” Winters said. Upcoming programs, such as the library’s first ever Author Fair and an appearance by Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford, have been cancelled in accordance to new measures banning public gathering in the state of Oregon.

“It’s disappointing and sad [because] one of the things that we do that the people enjoy and appreciate is offer programs,” Winters said. “But cancelling them in these times is the right thing to do.”