How Will the Gig Economy Shape the Future of Libraries?

Posted by Ronald J Stefanski on July 16, 2019

Growth of the Gig Economy

The gig economy, the free market system in which temporary positions are common, has grown exponentially in the past decade, from 10.1% in 2005 to 15.8% in 2015.1 The growth of this industry falls to the development of new technologies that enable transactions directly between providers and consumers and the increasing disinterest in acquiring traditional 9-5 jobs.1 More than ever before, people are filling temporary roles including working as handymen, cultivating content as freelance writers, and performing administrative work. Despite the temporary nature of these roles, they often require new skill sets to be learned. Free educational services and skills development programs provided through libraries have become critical to job placement and advancement for many gig positions and demand continues to increase.

Libraries and the gig economy

How can libraries keep up with demand and arm their patrons with the right skill sets for a future of temporary work in a gig economy? More than 300 librarians came together on June 22nd in Washington D.C. at the American Library Association conference to deliberate this question and potential solutions. One resolution that arose was the repository of skills development programs offered through the partnership between Baker & Taylor and Penn Foster. Since 40% of its local population is expected to participate in the gig economy within the next few years, the Mid-Continent Public Library is especially excited to partner with Penn Foster and support their patrons with skills that can be used for years to come. "[The patrons] just want to get skilled up to get the next gig or run their own HVAC or plumbing business. We can be a place to set them up for success," explains Steven Potter, CEO of Mid-Continent Public Library. "This is why we decided to partner with Penn Foster through Baker and Taylor." Lance Werner, Executive Director of Kent District Library, stresses how important libraries are when it comes to educational services and skills development, "We've been in the business of helping people and being a trusted partner in the community for a long time. In addition to helping people find answers they can't get elsewhere, we provide resources, support and services at the point of need. And sometimes what folks need is help preparing for and finding their next job." While libraries will always remain as community-oriented places of access, they will also rise to the challenge of the gig economy and constantly develop and shape new ways to support and upskill their patrons. Learn more about the skills development programs libraries across the country are offering to their patrons through the Baker & Taylor and Penn Foster partnership.