NJ libraries could be even more relevant in 2022 – here’s how

New Jersey libraries may be more popular today than they were before the pandemic.

It’s a misconception that libraries have lost their relevance in today’s digital world, according to those who see firsthand the activity that takes place at a local library on any given day.

“You’ll be surprised what your local library can do for you,” said Juliet Machie, executive director of the New Jersey Library Association. “Libraries are dynamic, we are by no means static. We will continue to change the way we do business.”

Book lending is still a basic service provided by libraries, but cardholders also have the option of visiting an online library and downloading books, albums, and movies. According to Machie, perhaps half the people who walk through the door of a library end up borrowing material on the way out.

Not everyone can get the answer they need at their fingertips. For “digital strangers,” as Machie describes them, the local public library is the perfect place to complete tasks that need to be done on the web. Since the start of the pandemic, for example, libraries have been attracting unemployed people who have to apply for jobs electronically.

School-age children still use libraries in large numbers, Machie added. And the resources available, along with the programming, can meet “many basic needs of life.”

“No matter where you are in life, your local library has the ability to get you from point A to point B, to guide you from where you are to where you are trying to go,” she said.

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During the pandemic months of 2020, many libraries turned to programming through Zoom. Public libraries recorded 1.8 million visitors during this period. Of the 31 million articles distributed from March to December 2020, about a third were electronic resources.

“It’s amplified for us, the number of our fellow citizens who don’t have access to the digital world,” Machie said.

According to an analysis by a research organization Words evaluatedVisits to libraries have been down for 10 years nationally, but libraries have “never been more popular” thanks to a strong transition to digital.

The state-by-state analysis revealed that New Jersey is home to 4.8 libraries per 100,000 residents and approximately 44% of New Jersey’s population are registered borrowers. Statewide library collections contain more than 25 million books, more than 13 million eBooks, and nearly 11 million audiobooks. The New Jersey library system ranks in the top 10 for average number of visits per library, number of library programs offered, and funding.

“Based on the direction of funding increases and other metrics, it appears New Jersey public libraries are on track overall, from a high-level data perspective,” said Nicholas Rizzo, director search for WordsRated.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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