Why Libraries?

People who sit in front of their computers all day pontificating are asking why, with all this information technology, do we still need bricks-and-mortar libraries?

The library is a community center where people go to get good information and entertainment free of direct charge: 

  • It is a place where everyone is welcome 
  • Where they can find a quiet place to sit. 
  • As in other (increasingly rare) ‘third places,’ people visiting the library run into people they know: that helps build community
  • The library has meeting rooms that provide neutral territory for public discussion of public issues. 
  • It enhances life in its community and is a point of public pride.
  • It increases property values in its community
  • It is an inheritance for future generations
  • It is a place to go to help find needed information without being charged and without pressure to buy something. 
  • It is a place where a torrent of information is turned into useful knowledge.
  • The public library building is like a public park for the mind and it is open 12 months a year.  People use it in any weather and the play equipment is amazing!
  • For the have-nots, whose numbers are increasing, public library buildings provide:
  • broadband access,
  • free computers,
  • advice from trained professionals,
  • access to the arts,
  • access to the best of our country’s culture,
  • help learning English,
  • help raising literate children,
  • help finding a job,
  • and access to an economic system that demands they communicate via the Internet.

 More people are going to bricks-and-mortar libraries than ever.  [Put down those Oreos, turn off your computer, see the light of day and visit a real public library, oh geek.]  No other public institution exists for the purpose of providing free information to anyone.

 More background/perspective:

From Dan Duray, “Rescuing the Stacks”, New York Observer, 6/6/2010:

http://www.observer.com/2010/culture/rescuing-stacks

“The public library is the most powerful and cost-effective wealth-transfer mechanism ever invented. Instead of simply ameliorating problems, libraries create opportunity. As generations have learned, the aisle between the shelves is a corridor out of poverty, a bypass around inadequate schools, an expressway that adds momentum to even a first-rate education.”

Will Sherman, “33 Reasons why Libraries and Librarians Are Still Extremely Important”

http://www.collegeonline.org/library/adult-continued-education/librarians-needed

 Among the reasons:

  • ·         Not everything is available on the internet
  • ·         Internet complements libraries but does not replace them
  • ·         School libraries and librarians improve student test scores
  • ·         Digitization is going to take a while; a long while
  • ·         Libraries aren’t just books
  • ·         The [ebook] hype might really just be hype
  • ·         Google Book Search “don’t work”
  • ·         Physical libraries can adapt to cultural change
  • ·         Physical libraries are adapting to cultural change
  • ·         The internet isn’t DIY
  • ·         The internet is a mess
  • ·         The internet is subject to manipulation
  • ·         Libraries can preserve the book experience
  • ·         Libraries are stable while the web is transient
  • ·         Not everyone has access to the internet
  • ·         Not everyone can afford books
  • ·         Libraries are a stopgap to anti-intellectualism:

“It’s not that the internet is anti-intellectual; its academic roots and the immense quantity of scholarly sites certainly attest to it being a smart medium…

[but] Access to books and theories from hundreds of years of cultural history is essential to progress. Without this, technology could become the ironic tool of the sensational and retrograde cultural tendencies. Preserving libraries to store knowledge and teach the limitations of technology can help prevent the hubris and narcissism of technological novelty.”

More on ‘why the public library?’

http://www.alternet.org/story/150819/why_is_one_us_city_stripping_the_word_%27public%27_from_public_library 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/13/internet-age-still-need-libraries

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/06/opinion/la-oe-johnson-libraries-20100706

About Michael R. Smith

A volunteer for Friends of the Forest Grove Library (OR)
This entry was posted in Libraries, Public libraries, Why we need libraries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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