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Libraries still relevant in the face of technological change

Director of the Giovale Library Emily Swanson discusses how the library has changed since she’s been at Westminster College and how the library is evolving to keeping up with student’s needs. (Video by John Perri)

Libraries are still important community resources despite changes in how people get their information and subsequent budget cuts, according to librarians.

Public library’s budgets have been on the decline since the year 2002, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Libraries both public and state have had to cut funding to keep up with these increased budget cuts, according to the report.

In 2019, the Trump administration took aim to eliminate funding for all public libraries by targeting the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, according to an article from Publisher Weekly.

Julie Barlow, a Davis County school district librarian, said libraries have made an effort to provide more digital media to adapt to their patrons’ needs.

The main lobby of the Giovale Library from the perspective of a librarian behind their desk on Feb. 14. Director of the Giovale Library Emily Swanson said the library has been working over the years to meet ever-changing student needs. (Photo by John Perri)

“Some of the changes that really are happening in libraries are digital,” Barlow said. “Libraries have to really stay relevant that way. Rather than just provide reference material, we have to provide internet sources and reliable sources for people to find information that aren’t in books.”

Westminster College’s Giovale Library has also had to update its resources to meet the changing demands of students said Director Emily Swanson.

The Forum to sat down with Swanson to discuss how Giovale Library has changed to stay relevant. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

Q: How has Giovale Library changed in the past nine years since you’ve been at Westminster?

A: A lot of things have changed mostly, we’ve really tried to focus on making things easier for students, [and] to figure out what students want and need and catered to those needs.

Q: With digital mediums becoming more prevalent, where do you see your position in 10 years? Are libraries needed in a digital age?

A: There is this idea as the internet grows and become more prevalent that libraries will go away. I don’t believe that. The internet has made things more accessible, however, when you’re looking at academic research it’s costly. Students will often see [this] when they’re doing a Google search. They will get to an article and are asked to pay $40 to access the article. The libraries provide access to those articles. We pay for those things. We make information accessible and affordable for students.

I know with this digital narrative people have this conception that students don’t need help finding information. There’s been quite a bit of research that says that students do need help finding research and evaluating it. Evaluation [of information accuracy] on the internet is quite difficult. Librarians are here to help students find information, evaluate, figure out how to use it and use it ethically and legally.

Q: Is Giovale Library doing anything to stay relevant and get students in the door?

A: We are one of the most visited internal webpages of the Westminster College website. […] We keep a lot of data, so we know that we get a lot of students in and out of the building [and] using the building. One of the things that we are doing is purchasing items that students need. Another […] is pushing for a more open educational resources. These are things like textbooks that faculty could use for their courses at no cost. We’re working with faculty right now to try to encourage them to adopt materials to save students money.

Q: What kind of additions has the college or the staff made to the library?

The Holladay city library sits empty due to renovations on Feb. 8. The Giovale Library at Westminster College is one of many libraries across the country fighting to remain relevance in the face of low funding and technological innovation. (Photo by John Perri)

A: We’ve [made] a lot of additions. We have put in new carpet, we’ve replaced chairs, [expanded] our I-Lab, […] we put in water bottle fillers, we installed standing desks. We’ve really done a lot of small things like making sure the signage in the building is correct.

Other things we’ve done is try to make research easier for students. We’ve added Griffin Search, which [can search] almost all of our databases, our books, DVDs and we’ve also made interlibrary loans a lot more seamless in using it. We’ve added databases and collections as needed by programs. We’ve tried to create more study space in the physical building as well.

Q: Has the library gotten rid of any physical books?

A: We removed books from the collection through a process called weeding. Weeding is a common library practice where you go through your collection and look at items that aren’t used [or] out of date and remove those from the collection. We did do a large weeding project. You do that for a couple of reasons [primarily,] to make sure your collection is relevant.

Q: Have eBooks and other electronic media changed the library in the past decade?

A: I think the big change with eBooks and electronic media […] happened more than a decade ago when I started as a librarian. A lot of things were online and available through electronic databases.[…] the cost of databases, electronic databases and electronic journals [has] increased by 3-7 percent every year.

Q: Where do you see physical libraries in 10 years?

A: I think physical libraries will be here in 10 years. Physical libraries are important parts of the community. They are one of the few places that you can go. You don’t have to buy anything to be there. You can just exist and be there, all people are welcome. That is our goal here at the library to make sure that all of the Westminster community feels safe and comfortable at the library. I believe that libraries will be here in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, they are an important part of a community.


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John Perri is a senior communication major and a huge New England Patriots fan. Perri was raised in downtown Boston but currently lives in Utah for now. He loves to talk to strangers, so if you see him come say “hi!”

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