Digital Learning Day: Computers In the Library

Thursday, February 25, 2021

#Digital Learning Day


#Computers and the Library: A Look Back

Digital Learning Day celebrates the use of digital technology in learning. While libraries have always been centers for lifelong learning, it has been our embrace of technology over the last several decades that have kept us both relevant and essential in this new age of hand-held devices and instant access to information. That is also why, this past year, libraries were able to shift quickly to virtual programming and add more digital resources in response to the pandemic. Things have changed so fast. It's easy to forget that just 30 or 40 years ago, many of us had never even used a personal computer. 


young boy at a library computer
A young boy at a computer at Pepsi After School Spot. Brentwood Library, 1990s

The appearance of desktop computers in libraries was still somewhat novel in the 1980s and 90s. Now, computers and the Internet are essential to library operations and the services we provide to the public. Computers have also changed how librarians and library staff do their work. Over the years, traditional card catalogs were replaced by online ones. Websites and online resources were added and the library made more and more room for computers and other devices. 

Adults and children use the computers inside libraries every day to study, learn, and access things like job applications. The Library is still sometimes the first place some children (and even some adults) come into contact with computers. For decades, libraries across the world have attempted to bridge the digital divide, provide Internet and computer access, and help people build the 21st Century skills they need.

Check out these other photos of the early days of computers in the Library, taken from Special Collection's digital archive:

  • Woman and group of children using library computer

    Woman and group of children using a Macintosh computer in the library (1990s).

  • Macintosh computer

    Apple Macintosh computer with an educational game on the screen

  • computer catalogs

    Library customers using computer catalogs at the Mandarin Branch, 1980s.

  • Library employee assisting customer at computer catalog

    Library employee helps a customer at the catalog computer in the 1980s.

  • Employee at SWIFT computer

    Library employee working at SWIFT computer at Main Haydon Burns Branch, 1980s

    SWIFT stood for System-Wide Information for Telephone Learners.

  • Library employee working on computer

    Library employee working on computer at her desk in the Haydon Burns Library, 1993

  • Man at a computer

    Library customer at a computer at the Mandarin Branch, 1980s

  • Two boys at a computer

    Two boys using a library catalog at San Marco Branch, 1980s

#Going Digital to Support Lifelong Learning

Even if you are fortunate enough to have Internet access and devices at home: the Library can still be a trusted and valuable learning partner by providing access to quality digital resources that would otherwise come with hefty subscription fees. These include but are not limited to research databases, video streaming services (see more below), language learning software, eBooks, eMagazines, and online newspapers like the Times Union. But with so much information at our fingertips where would you even get started? 

Well, we have a few suggestions for you, all of them free with your library card!

  • Browse the library's online catalog and digital library. Even in the digital age, books can be an incredibly helpful resource for keeping up with technology. We update our catalog regularly, so you can find the latest editions of popular tech-help books in our non-fiction section. You might also want to check out our digital library including Hoopla and Overdrive for e-books, audiobooks, magazines, comic books, and more. 
  • Attend virtual events to connect, share ideas, and learn with others like you. Library U is a collection of classes and events free to every Jacksonville Public Library cardholder. It includes programs like Lit Chat (author talks), Writer’s Lab (writing and publish workshops), Screening Room (group film discussions), Book Club, and more. Sign up for the newsletter here to receive event notifications via email. You can also join the Library U Facebook Group. There's also a Library Academy for children's and teens' virtual programming and events.
  • Take courses on Learn the latest software, creative, and business skills for free with your library card. Bite-size tutorials and comprehensive courses on hundreds of topics are available for users of any skill level. Unlock access to thousands of online courses taught by expert instructors. offers personalized and self-paced learning, and helps users acquire skillsets that improve their chances of getting hired - all without the cost of higher education.
  • Engage in some “thoughtful entertainment” with Kanopy. This video-streaming platform offers more than just thoughtful independent films and documentaries. This diverse collection of 30,000+ enriching films include such gems as The Criterion Collection, which is a gathering of some of greatest classic and contemporary films from around the world. You are allowed six play credits (six videos) a month. Though, videos can be kept for up to 72 hours and replayed as many times during that time as you wish. The Great Courses are a fascinating series of recorded lectures and college-level courses – all from esteemed college professors. These 5700+ videos can be enjoyed with unlimited access. There's even a Kanopy Kids mode, which also has unlimited play.

Jeremy Yates

Jeremy Yates Jacksonville Public Library

Jeremy Yates (he/they) is a maker, visual storyteller, D&D player and lifelong Disney fan. He is also the newest addition to the Jacksonville Public Library's Marketing Department. When not at work, he enjoys spending time in a galaxy far, far away through Star Wars audiobooks, movies and TV shows. Or you’ll find him binge-watching other fantasy and sci-fi shows, playing Pokémon Go or just spending quality time with his equally-geeky partner Andrew and their extremely food-motivated Border Collie, Watson.

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