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Libraries Complement STEAM Learning, Enhance Digital Experience for Students

New Research Highlights the Evolution of the Library's Role as an Extension of Public School Services

"Today libraries are less about what we have than what we can do with and for our patrons," American Library Association (ALA) President Sari Feldman said.

The ALA released its findings this week in this year's Digital Inclusion Survey, which compiles two decades worth of research on the shifting role of the 17,000 public libraries serving local communities across the country.

Rather than merely provide materials for students and community members to use, libraries have now evolved into centers that teach health literacy, technology training, free Wi-Fi, and summer reading opportunities to combat "summer slide," the ALA found.

""Libraries advance individual opportunity and community progress through The E's of Libraries®—education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment, and engagement," Feldman added," according to a statement from the ALA.

In other words, libraries have become an incredibly valuable tool for students and community members seeking further education outside of the classroom.

The study found that 95 percent of libraries offer free Wi-Fi, an especially important tool for students who might not have access to Wi-Fi at home but need it for homework needs.

Libraries have also become significant after-school resources for K-12 students. The research found that almost half- 45 percent- of libraries provide early-learning technologies for pre-K students while one-third of all libraries provide "literacy, GED prep, STEAM and afterschool programs" to act as an extension of public school.

When it comes to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) offerings, many libraries have also stepped up to be part of "the maker movement," providing students within communities, areas and materials via makerspaces to encourage innovation.

And in the area of digital content offerings, libraries continue to lead.

"Digital content offerings also continue to climb, with more than 90% of public libraries offering e-books, online homework assistance (95%) and online language learning (56%), to name a few. A recent survey from library ebook supplier OverDrive finds that more than 120 million e-books and audiobooks were borrowed from libraries they supply in the first nine months of 2015, representing year-over-year growth of almost 20%," the company's statement said.

To find out more about the Digital Inclusion Survey, check it out here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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