I am a bibliophile. I bought an old house partly because it has a library to house my books. While I do read e-books, I love the feel of a book in my hands. If you care at all about my love of books, I have a whole blog mostly devoted to reading and books.
But the point of this entry is to muse a bit on libraries. I’ve been thinking a lot about them recently for two reasons. I started this year as I do many years with a resolution to buy fewer books. Actually, the resolution was to spend less money in general but since books are a big part of my discretionary spending, they are pretty much the same resolution.
In addition, I was asked to do a short talk about the role of libraries in the future so am reading Biblio-Tech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google by John Palfrey. He gets at the essential conundrum of libraries in a digital age:
Libraries are in danger because they are caught between two ideas that are not easily reconciled: on the one hand, the public sentiment that the digital era has made libraries less relevant, and on the other, the growing number of expectations we have for libraries, stemming in no small part for the very digitalization that the public assumes is making them obsolete. These two ideas cannot be right.
I think the latter idea is the one on which we should focus. I live in a town in which the library plays an important role in many ways beyond just books including free computer and Internet access for people who otherwise could not afford it.
For those of us who do have access and devices, they have invested heavily in digital resources. When I stopped in last week, the librarian was eager to show me their magazine database. Lots of excellent titles. I really like being able to browse magazines that I otherwise would not buy and I discovered you can easily print select pages so I can save particular articles and recipes for later use.
EdTech has an interesting take on libraries as well, describing the dystopian future as one in which books either don’t play a role at all or are banned and burned. Defending libraries is also about defending our rights as citizens to the free flow of information.