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Wisconsin libraries adapting to changing media technology

MADISON (WKOW) - Tana Elias has been visiting the library since she was a child. Her grandmother, a children's book writer, taught her to love books.

"She really instilled in me the interest in reading and writing and the value of education," she said.

For the past 25 years, Elias has worked in local public libraries. She said she came to Madison initially to attend library school, then began her career as a library page.

"If you ask people who work in libraries what attracts them to it, many of them would say 'I love to read.' That's definitely the case for me."

People like Elias have a lifelong commitment to visiting and improving the public library system. However, a new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum found that with a changing media landscape, fewer people are going to them.

The growing popularity of Netflix, YouTube, e-books and podcasts means many people are looking elsewhere for information and entertainment.

The study found that Madison's circulation dropped almost 35 percent between 2009 and 2018.

But from 2015 to 2018, the county's e-content use rose 52 percent.

And in some Wisconsin libraries, Wi-Fi usage and program attendance more than doubled.

Elias said they're seeing these trends because the library offers more than just books.

"Public libraries are one of the few spaces in our country where people can come for free, and they can use our resources for free, and they can use the space for free," she said. "The library is really a place for everybody."

Madison public libraries host programs teaching people to read, use the computer and speak different languages. They're meeting centers for local groups and places to come together and learn.

WAOW Staff

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