When I was a kid, going to the library was a pretty big deal. I had my own library card (it was an assignment from school to get one) and I went there every two weeks with my grandma to check out books. These days, however, I rarely see the inside of a library and that’s because I get most of my books off the internet, especially now that there are so many ebooks available. So does that mean libraries are becoming obsolete?
When I started going to the library all I remember seeing were aisles upon aisles of books. Beyond that, there was a giant card catalogue and some ancient microfilm machines. Walk into a library now, though, and you’ll still find seemingly endless rows of books, but also rows and rows of computers and spaces for holding meetings. Libraries are places for people to access more than just books; they offer information of all types. Job-hunters, for example, often flock to libraries for technology use and guidance (most libraries have some sort of job-search assist program). With technology evolving so quickly, there are a lot of people who go to the library to get caught up with it all, and library staff can help them do this.
You can also use the computers to check out ebooks from the library. That’s right. Ebooks. Although the big publishing houses are making it difficult for libraries to do it cost effectively (that’s another blog post for another day, so in the mean time check out the New York Times for their article on the subject) libraries are doing their best to provide what more and more readers want: digital reading material. According to the American Library Association, more than two-thirds of libraries now offer ebooks for check out. For Free. Does that sound like extinction to you? Libraries may not be on the cutting edge of technology, but they are evolving with today’s changes in technology, not being steam-rolled by them.
Probably the best thing about a library (yes, even better than free ebooks) is the librarians. They are like the search engines of the library and can help you find whatever it is you’re looking for. That’s not to say they know everything. They simply know how to find the knowledge you seek. If it’s not in the library they’re usually pretty good at directing you to a great internet resource, including sources which may not show up in the first hundred links on a Google search. They are also more likely to point you in the direction of a credible source, something else they do better than search engines. Librarians deal with the science of information on a huge scale every single day, so if you don’t think they’re better at surfing the web than you are, you will be in for a surprise on your next library visit! With the world becoming more global and information becoming more internet-based, librarians have added search engine expert to their many job titles, which also typically include teacher, A/V technician, voracious reader, computer maintenance, child literacy watchdog, and the (seemingly) all-knowing Wizard of Oz. Librarians are amazing people and only some of them have blogs, so go meet one in person!
When people say that libraries are going extinct it’s because what people think libraries are (stuffy, silent, every individual with their face stuffed in a book and dead to the rest of the world) is going extinct. Libraries are changing. They have a lot more social space set up to encourage people of the community to meet and actually talk about what they’re reading, face-to-face. They have tons of community programs, many of which are focused on getting future generations interested and up-to-speed in reading. What’s more important or forward-looking than that?
I believe libraries are getting better and better. What do you think?