This report evaluates recent and existing State Library of Queensland (SLQ) initiatives in relation to information technology and communications using ethnographic techniques. The report gathers data collected from interviews with several stakeholders and considers contemporary developments in library practices and digital media.
Libraries have long been a foundation for a literate society, and thus an important platform for democratic participation. Digital technologies have radically transformed processes of storing and distributing information and human stories, such that the volume of online information now exceeds that in every physical library in the world. Consequently, libraries are adapting to support new forms of literacy and a new kind of public sphere emerging in the wake of a digital culture. For Queensland libraries, the effects of a digital culture are visible in statistics showing that membership figures remain steady even as the number of physical items circulated by libraries has declined. Library participation is increasingly being driven by a wide range of ‘non-traditional’ services, resources and activities that now form an integral part of the library’s institutional function. It is also important to note that specialist, public, academic and private libraries all have different dynamics of evolution in the world of technological change. Our emphasis in this research is on the public library form.
Key Findings: A) There is strong demand for technological learning in libraries. .B) The physical library environment contributes greatly to user participation and uptake of digital services. C) New initiatives are often targeted at non-traditional library users, yet program managers report low levels of public awareness of the library’s non-traditional services and programs. D) The public library is a trusted ‘third place’.