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  • By Johanna Salinas

Redefining Libraries in the Digital Age

said Krishnan Seerengan is a librarian at John F. Kennedy High School

When thinking of libraries, one might imagine shelves of old books collecting dust as empty chairs and tables wait for someone who won’t come to give life to the room. Libraries seem a thing of the past. In this digital age, the Internet is affordable and available for many who many not have had access to it 10 years ago.

Indeed, technology has had a lasting impact on libraries, which were once thought to be going the way of the dinousaurs. But libraries fight to survive and keep their their relevance amid the thriving technology that wraps world. They integrate Internet into their services to better assist the public’s wants. “Technology is very important in any public library,” said Frank Aflague, Hagåtña Library program coordinator. “Patrons vary from day to day, but they mostly come in to use the computers.”

An average of 4,700 users per week come into the public libraries to use the computers. According to the most recent citizentric report filed by the Guam Public Library System, Guam’s public libraries had a total of 30,817 internet use is 2011.

The Guam Public Library System has an annnual budget of $1.5 million. It operates one central library in Hagatna, one bookmobile and five libraries located in Dededo, Yona, Barrigada, Agat and Merizo —with a total of 236,965 print materials. In 2016, the system had 1,900 registered patrons and 6,200 walk-in patrons.

As a place for leisure, Internet is vital for the needs of the society. The Hagåtña Library has computers for patrons to search the web and check Facebook and watch Youtube.

Although most residents often seek information using Internet in gas stations, restaurants or cafes, customers are expected to spend to just sit in these establishments. “[Libraries] provide free services to the public,” Aflague said. “Our free computer and Internet services [are great] for those who may not have the resources at home.”

According to Education Bug, an online resource for library informatiion nationwide, Guam libraries receive 40,294 annual visits.

Still, some residents believe that the library has lost its relevance. Yet those who believe this don’t go to the library often. To an outsider glancing in, library programs may seem unneccessary. However, these programs work; sometimes almost 60 people attend a literary session.

In May 2016, Hagåtña Library was used as a FestPac venue for book sales and author presentations. During the two week event, almost 50 people would visit the library daily to see books from our neighboring islands. Other islands’ delegates were taken aback by how modern it is. For some delegates, even the locals, Hagåtña Library is too cold. Though frigid facility may feel uncomfortable to some locals, the workers’ welcoming smiles creates a more welcoming atmosphere. Employees, like Aflague, provide a human connection not present in books or technology. Assisting the delegates wasn’t just a job for Frank, he cares for patrons.

It’s important for the island’s school libraries to care for the youth as well—feeding their educational needs and fueling their imagination. Guam’s school libraries also incorporate internet in their services. “JFK has 50 desktop computers and spent more than $100,000 to purchase books and 30 iPads and two mobile lab 30 laptops of each lab,” said Krishnan Seerengan, John F. Kennedy High School librarian. “All our libraries are funded by passport funds, which are generated from the passport office. These funds are distributed based on the school’s enrollment and used to benefit the students. Librarians use the funds purchase books, technology, etc.”

Seerengan said best books for libraries are hardcover and even the thinnest of books can be around $15.

Schools teach students to sit still and listen, but public libraries allow users to enhance their understanding of the world without the inhibitions of being graded. Whether you prefer to escape within fiction or open your mind with facts, libraries have something for everyone.

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