A blog dedicated to keeping abreast of issues and ideas in the profession.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Public Libraries: Do we still need libraries?
Do we still need libraries?
Once upon a time, a library was just about the only place that someone could go to get a book or go to read for free. Librarians knew their turf inside and out. Card catalogs were an essential part of stock organization. After this became outdated, the Dewey Decimal System reigned supreme. Libraries all over the country thrived as one of the main providers of free books and education.
Then came the advent of the internet, and that changed everything. Before long, books were available on different sites on the web, and many companies and organizations strove to catalog and digitize as many books as they legally could. It was only a matter of time until Kindle, Nook, and other ereaders swept the scene. Along with them came the ebook and the ability to download pirated copies of books for free. Many believed that this would be the end of libraries. But, libraries still exist today, and many of them even thrive. So, how is it possible that they survived against the onslaught of ebooks? How did libraries and librarians adapt?
For one thing, the truth is that libraries were never just about borrowing books for free. Librarians provide many services other than those of a desk clerk or customer service agent. They often hold seminars, presentations, contests, and other events to promote free education for the people in their communities and beyond. Over the summer, many libraries hold book-reading contests for young children, with prizes for anyone who participates. These events are considered indispensable by parents and kids alike.
For others, the library is a place of respite and quiet. A place where they can go to get away from the world and its rush of action, to get away from social obligations or family troubles. Many go to the library to study for projects, papers, and exams. Others simply see it as a recreational hobby, to be able to sit in a comfortable chair and read a good book without interruption.
For another thing, most libraries and librarians do not reject outright the changing tides of technology. And neither does the world, for that matter. In the US, the graduate degree program to become a librarian is often called a Library Science program. This is a relatively recent change, and it reflects the fact that the country believes its librarians should keep up with the latest in information technology. Many librarians agree, and therefore have become experts in the field.
Library science includes learning the latest cataloging, archiving, record-keeping, and information management technologies. They not only curate physical books, they also curate digital media and other technological assets. They are extremely well-versed in anything that has to do with books, education, research and technology. They know the ins and outs of ereaders as well, and more and more libraries are even offering them as items to check out.
Librarians have by and large embraced the changing tides with open arms. After all, public libraries have always maintained a goal of free education and access to books for all people; not just those privileged enough to have the means to pay for it. It is with this attitude that libraries and librarians have willingly educated themselves in the technology needed to keep up with the fast-paced digital world of technology today.
So consider a visit to your local library to see all the recent changes. If you haven’t been to one in a while you might not recognize the place. But don’t worry. Your librarian will be happy to bring you up to speed.