Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Do Physical Libraries Still Matter?


Are libraries—the ones you have to leave home to visit—still important?

Libraries

Image Courtesy of Holger Dieterich ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/holger

Can they survive in this digital age?

Will they become digital themselves?

Are physical books and their collections going away?

I have a few handfuls of posts I’ve done on libraries and I should share four of them:

So, What Are Libraries Good For, Now That So Many People Use the Internet?

The E-Book Wars & Your Public Library . . .

Publisher Helps Local Libraries Become Community Publishers !

A Place Called LibraryThing ~ A Space To Have A Love Affair With Books

I have a friend who’s a prison librarian and he recently sent me a link to an interesting article on SlateWhat Will Become of the Library?

I know one thing my friend probably liked about that article was the mention of Andrew Carnegie—the man who endowed 2,500 public libraries in the United States.

As a young boy, Carnegie benefited form a lending library operated by someone from Pittsburgh, the hometown of my friend the prison librarian…

I encourage you to read the full article over on Slate but I need to share one particular quote:

“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen, instead. … A mall—the shops—are places where your money makes the wealthy wealthier. But a library is where the wealthy’s taxes pay for you to become a little more extraordinary, instead.”

Then, there’s another article about libraries I discovered on my daily scans of the news—written by the Director of the Harvard Law School Library—Why Libraries [Still] Matter.

He brings up the facility of seeking information on the Web and says:

“I co-authored a study investigating link rot in legal scholarship and judicial opinions, and was shocked to find that, circa late 2013, nearly three out of four links found within all Harvard Law Review articles were dead. Half of the links in U.S. Supreme Court opinions were dead.”

I can only imagine how many links to non-law-related information are dying every second…

He ends the article with this statement:

“In a world suffused with so much transient information as to inspire epistemic paralysis, we acutely need libraries’ power, independence, and ethos: institutions conceived to fight on behalf of their patrons, which is to say for the public and for the preservation and intelligibility of the public record.”

Do you still visit physical libraries?

What do you think they can do to stay alive when military spending, among other financial escapades, is inducing public austerity and stripping libraries of the funds they need?
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5 responses to “Do Physical Libraries Still Matter?

  1. juliecround September 16, 2014 at 6:57 am

    Of course libraries matter. While there are still people who cannot or will not read from a screen but who want to be transported, thrilled, informed and fascinated FREE! (I refuse to write’for free’)
    I must admit the internet makes a good encyclopaedia but fiction has to be selected and then enjoyed in book form. Libraries have been quick to embrace new technology and serve locally as places where people can learn and use computers. They also hold meetings, poetry readings and writing classes. They introduce children to books even before they start school.They also serve in many places as local information centres. I would not like to live in a world without them.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai September 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      I agree with you about libraries, Julie, on all points…

      Like

  2. Salvatore Pope Ritondo September 16, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Do you still visit physical libraries? I am a constant patron at my tiny library in town. The physical collection of books matter. I think we have to many librarians focused on reinventing themselves and their libraries making them into hip coffee bars. Get back to scholarship!

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai September 16, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      Totally appreciate your comment, Sal :-)

      Like

  3. Pingback: Younger People and Public Libraries | Notes from An Alien

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