02/13/2013 05:46 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2013

How Libraries Thrive as Technology Advances

When was the last time you stepped inside a public library? Do you even remember how to use the Dewey Decimal system or research with microfiche? For many, the term "library" is an antiquated means to seek information and conduct research. For others, it's a calm, serene, safe haven where one can focus, read and enjoy themselves. Whatever your opinion about the library is, the reality is, today's library is going through a metamorphosis and technology is driving it.

Libraries have broken through the brick and mortar glass ceiling, and are no longer bound by walls. Today's libraries have found, and continue to find, innovative ways to move online and offer patrons convenience and value. It's really refreshing to see how libraries have adapted and utilized technology to accomplish change. Some libraries create customized solutions on their own, while others use well-respected partners like Recorded Books to assist them in locating, defining and negotiating access to content. Today's libraries don't stop with just in-house access, they offer a suite of great benefits including:

• Enabling patrons to log on to their library from their home, or remotely from devices to access content historically stored only inside the library walls. The Phoenix Public Library has a fantastic site making it clear that patrons can enjoy many services including books, music, magazines and movies.

• Allowing patrons to learn a new language, remotely with Transparent
Language (online language courses) like the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Public Library does: for over 487K cardholders.

• Offering access to select digital magazines to reading fans whether they are in the library or at home like Cuyahoga County Public Library. Gone are the days of the dog-eared pages, or disintegrating copies of your favorite magazine articles. And for many of us, the disappointment of turning the page to see that the amazing recipe or gut-killing ab routine has been stolen by another reader, is all but erased from our memories.

Today's libraries have risen to a new level. They are striving to be more than a resource or lending institution. They are evolving into market leaders and trend-setters, all while offering digital services like eBooks, educational databases and job assistance programs that help their communities. When the world continues to become more global and digital, many libraries are finding ways to maintain a personal and local approach that ensures every neighborhood can explore globally while residing locally.

Recent research and reports surrounding the public library system still paint a dreary picture on the sector's outlook of growth and access. Even with naysayers, it is easy to state that technology will play a vital role in the evolution of libraries, as well as impacting relevance and usage of this valued institution.