Maxsports writes below that libraries should be torn down and the money used to maintain libraries should be distributed to people in the form of computers. He believes computers are replacing libraries.
I don’t think he’s been in a library lately!
I work in a library in an institution of higher learning, so my view is somewhat skewed, but I have, since I was a very young woman, supported libraries and will continue to do so. Libraries are more used than ever, if my own anecdotal experiences are any indication. This campus library is packed with people seven days a week with students using library resources, from the archives to the manipulable materials to the reference books. And yes, students even check out books, amazingly! In fact, the last three books I wanted from this library were already checked out to a student.
Our local library is less than a mile from our house, and my kids ride their bicycles there once a week (yes, even the 6 year old). They love the library, the librarians, and all of the activities they can participate in. They never come home without a stack of books to read, or a story to tell about some experience they had. My kids have computers at home (yes, even the 6 year old) but that doesn’t keep them from loving and using the library and all of its resources.
What can you get there? Free movies for one. We rarely pay to rent movies, as they are always available at the library within a month of release. Books, lots of books. I can’t afford to buy every book that piques my or my kids’ interest, and borrowing them from the library is the only way to go. It also saves me from buying books that end up being duds. I often hear good things about a book and am tempted to rush out and buy it, but several times I’ve held off, checked it out from the library instead, and got halfway through it only to find it wouldn’t have been worth a fraction of what I might have paid for it. And I won’t even mention the best sellers that come out week after week, fresh and ready at my library, that I cannot afford to spend $20 on at the bookstore.
The biggest advantage of the library, for me, is access to librarians with amazing stores of knowledge. There is no better research on this planet than what exists in the mind of a talented reference librarian. If I’m researching a topic, I can go on my own to the Internet and do my best, but the real, solid, dead-on information is going to come from the librarian who can help me narrow my search and also give me alternate ways of finding information. The advantage of Lexis-Nexis and other library databases cannot be discounted either.
And most libraries also have archival information that will never be found on the Internet. Where else can I look at (and touch) an original piece of work that has been lovingly and carefully preserved but at the library? The Internet cannot do that for me.
Lastly, libraries offer free meeting space for community organizations. Getting involved in my community is as easy as checking the library’s calendar of events; I’ve attended meetings on zoning enforcement, road planning, political action, crafting, and historical research.
And my local library even has a coffee shop, big comfy chairs, and free speedy wi-fi. What’s not to love about that?
As much as I love the Internet, and my computer, and all the things I can do with it, there is a certain value to human interaction that I would miss if I did everything in front of the computer. I cannot imagine not having a librarian to consult when I’m looking for accurate information, or having a library to crash in for quiet time and a good fun read. Thinking on a global scale, there are plenty of countries without libraries or access to information for citizens; to abolish libraries here in the U.S. is to negate them throughout the rest of the world, and that can never be a good thing.
Libraries still have a purpose. I hope we haven’t “come so far” as to not be able to recognize the value of libraries in our everyday lives.