There are times when it seems like the whole world is being digitized and ported into your smartphone. It might make you wonder what will happen to places that existed before the analog versions. We all know what happened to companies like Tower Records and Blockbuster Video. They’ve gone the way of the dinosaur.
Will the same thing happen to libraries? And if so, what are we to do with our library cards?
An Interesting Trend Reversal
The Association of American Publishers reports that eBook sales continue to decline. They did so at a rate of nearly 19% in 2016. Meanwhile, Paperback sales were up over 7%, and hardback sales saw a 4% boost.
There are some logical reasons. Multiple recent studies concur: about a third of us believe we use digital devices way too much. If we’re going to read a book, we don’t want to do it on our smartphone or tablet. Likewise, some books simply lend themselves to a better physical existence. Children’s books and cookbooks easily fall into this category.
Another recent and popular category would be adult coloring books. There’s also a bit of psychology happening here, as well. Books remain popular for gift-giving. These gifts just aren’t as impressive when you give them as a digital version. Likewise, think twice before considering giving the gift of an eReader. Sales peaked in 2011.
People of all ages are using books as a break from digital devices.
And, if you’re wondering about the plight of librarians, 35% of these visitors said they asked for librarian assistance while they were there—which is 15 percentage points less than the last Pew Research Study. But don’t get too worried about human assistance in the library going the way of the dinosaur, too. At the same time, there’s been a dramatic increase—nearly a third of those who say they visited a library did so to attend a lecture, program, or class. It turns out that libraries remain a vibrant part of the American culture.
And They’re Heading Back to the Library
A recent Pew Research Center study reports that 48% of Americans over the age of 16 say they visited a public library in the past year. Of those who say they went to the library, 30% said they visit several times a month or more.
While it’s true that 49% of these library patrons say that Internet access for their mobile device was among the reasons for the visit, 64% say they went to find and borrow physical books.
Guess What You Still Need If You Want to Borrow a Book?
Yes, you need a library card. You might wonder why, when you can use your smartphone in place of an airline ticket these days—and we’ll get to that in a minute. First, here are a few things you might not know about libraries and library cards.
Library cards do keep track of what you borrow from the public library, but they were originally created to show proof of membership to private libraries. The earliest libraries were membership-only. We often hear that Benjamin Franklin founded the first library in the United States—and that’s true. The Library Company of Philadelphia, which he cofounded in 1731, was a members-only organization.
Public libraries didn’t really begin to gain popularity in the United States until the mid-19th century. The library cards for these didn’t prove that you were a paying member of a private book-lending organization—but they served the same purpose of keeping track of what’s been borrowed.
Even after the computer era, these physical cards remained the simplest approach to accomplishing what they do. The American Library Association says that about 65% of American adults have a library card.
Here’s the thing about those library cards. Libraries may not be in dire straits, but they’re not flush with operating cash. The cost to bring in technology to replace the venerable paper library card is an obstacle.
The library card is extremely versatile, and very inexpensive. Why spend the money when a solution proven by centuries of use still works just fine?
Protecting Your Investment
A library card is one way you prove that you support of your community’s effort to provide access to learning resources. You believe in the protection of everyone’s right to information. We’ve been in the business of protecting things like library cards for 40 years now.
We like to think we’ve got a lot in common with the library card. The world may have moved to a mostly digital platform, but there are some things that will remain physical because they are simply more practical that way. It’s why one of our most popular products is also one of our most versatile products.
Our vinyl card holders are purchased by industries ranging from hunting and fishing outfitters to office supply companies—and, yes, libraries. Whether it’s your Social Security card or your fishing license, it needs protection. Not from any digital threats. Although it’s tragic what a spilled cup of coffee can do to a smartphone or a laptop, not so for library cards or other important documents when they’re protected by a vinyl holder with your brand name on it, created for you by your friends at Vinyl Art!