Technology has changed how we read

News File Photo by Jordan Spence

ALPENA — With the advent of technology the ways people read has changed, yet a lot has stayed the same as well.

Alpena County Library READ Coordinator Pat Hummel said she notices how busy the library is every day.

“I work on the help desk as well. We do we have tons of people come into the library,” Hummel said. “They come to get specific genres of books. They get on mysteries they want to read everything that author has. They come for the new books. We have a wonderful children’s program. We have homeschoolers that check out stacks books. People check out audiobooks, that’s been popular.”

In a 2016 Pew Research Center reading survey, of 1,520 American adults 65 percent have read a traditional book, 28 percent have read an e-book and 14 percent have listened to an audio book.

Family literacy venter Director Mary Shelton-Wiese said technology seems to have impacted how people read.

“I guess one of the things we see is the younger generation, they don’t seem to have the traditional reading skills because they’re so into shortcut electronic language. That’s one thing we struggle with,” Shelton-Wiese said.

She said the kids they work with at the literacy center are ones who work toward their GED.

“They don’t tend to have good writing skills, they don’t read for detail as well. It’s more of skimming. So much of being successful is being able to read for detail. Also the good side of it, most of the kids that come to us that are younger have higher level skills. They may test out at 10th, 11th grade level, so they may have trouble functioning within the school system,” she said.

The center serves Lapeer, Tuscola and Huron areas and works with people to obtain job skills and more. With the READ program, Kirchoff and Hummel train volunteers to become tutors to help people learn English as a second language, obtain a GED and general literacy.

Kirchoff said when they work with READ students it tends to be adults. Many of them struggle with a reading disability so they also discuss different reading styles.

“We talk (with tutor volunteers) about how to teach English as second language. Where do you begin?,” Kirchoff said. “We have materials that help guide people through the process. Adults are highly motivated. If they come through our door and ask for help, they’re very motivated to be here. Motivation isn’t an issue. They come with a large wealth of background knowledge that helps them learn even more.”

The reading materials for the students are tailored to adults as well Hummel said. She said many of the READ students have specific needs.

“They want to be better at their job. Or one couple we had wanted to be better at school vocabulary since their kids were in school. One was a restaurant worker. She wanted some conversation starters to help with her customers at the restaurant. It’s all really interesting,” Hummel said.

While technology can block literacy advancement Hummel and Kirchoff have watched technology enhance their goals.

“It’s enhanced the English as a second language a lot in particular because we have a tutor now who does lessons on Facebook. She uses YouTube videos and creates a lesson and it can be accessed by her student,” Kirchoff said.

Hummel said READ students from other countries are truly global citizens. She said technology helps them to communicate to family members who live all over the world.

“We have one student who is driving a distance to come to the library. So (the tutor) offered the possibility of Skype or Facetime lessons,” Kirchoff said.

Both view technology as another resource.

Technology has been another resource to a different area of the library as well. Technology has helped the special collections and Thunder Bay Research Center catalogue the collection online, Marlo Broad said.

Part of the collection is of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary research collection. This is a collection of maritime history pre-1900, Broad said.

Several years ago they received a grant for $235,000 from the State of Michigan. This allowed them to digitize the contents.

“Instead of one or two people having access to all this when they come into the library, people from all over the world have free access to the database. Our goal is to preserve the history of the area and the Great Lakes. But we also want to make it accessible to everybody. We want people to use it and research it because it’s their history too,” Broad said.

She said they continue to receive calls from people all over the world who write books, work at museums, journals and more.

“They have that access and we want to help them,” Broad said.

Kirchoff said due to the fact-paced evolvement of technology literacy will do the same.

“More people are communicating through their phone and tablet. It just keeps evolving. People have these personal devices more and more in their hands. Evolving is the way to describe a library. We’re not just an archive. We don’t hold onto everything. We’re continually getting new things,” she said.

Jordan Spence can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687.