Libraries are being neglected…disregarded… shrugged off …
….during a time when they’re needed more than ever.
And yet, many will ask, why…why do we even need libraries, anymore? We have Google! Google can give us our answers. Our smartphones, secure in our pockets, are the keys to a galaxy of trivia, news and retrievable research.
Consider the It’s A Wonderful Life scenario and imagine that every single public library disappeared tomorrow. Gone. Poof. ….Some may be too quick to think that’d be no big deal… But the absence would be tremendous.
Imagine a world without these information hubs… These safe, quiet spaces at the center of every small town or major metropolis or close-knit community, offering all who enter free access to knowledge and…to, yes, the internet. What you have to appreciate is that in this age of Google, access to knowledge is unevenly distributed among societies (and varying working classes, for that matter). Libraries and librarians are here to be the equalizer, leveling the digital playing field for those comparatively disadvantaged in the Google game.
The fact is that public libraries matter more in than ever in the age of Google. The tricky part is not only proving that value to a digitally accelerated (and sometimes distracted) public.
“Libraries are at risk because we have forgotten how essential they are,” writes John Palfrey in BiblioTech, a new book demonstrating the increasing importance of libraries and librarians but also the crucial need for these institutions to become more inventive and to evolve into the digital era.
Palfrey quotes newspaper publisher Jack Knight, regarding the essentials for a democracy to thrive in the information age, that people must be stirred into an awareness of their own condition, provided inspiration for their thoughts and be roused to pursue their true interests…
What better place than a library to perform those services?
But that exchange doesn’t take place if libraries do not successfully transition into the digital era…
The hasty presupposition, here, is that the entire globe is ready to just leap forward into a predominantly digitized existence. Forget newspapers, forget libraries, forget phone books and paper money…
While we can (and do) serve the community (and the world) as a platform for the exchange of knowledge and information, we must also evolve if the times and trends require us, should that platform need to be raised or widened or…perhaps, expanded into a fourth dimension or a virtual reality… If the majority of information is exchanged digitally, the libraries of the world can not only continue serving as the prevailing platform, providing free access to all who enter it or seek its services, but it can also strengthen its abilities to serve as it evolves with the changing technologies…
But that is dependent on IF (and how…) we evolve…
But if we’re gone?
That means no storyhours for young children and families
No free meeting spaces for local organizations and advocacy groups
No free music concerts featuring local musicians
No free art exhibitions
No free author talks and book signings
No free Game Days
No free movie screenings
No free afterschool programming for teengaers
And that’s just the tip of the ice-berg.
Google can tell you a lot. But it cannot give you an experience… It cannot give you a sense of community.
If the times are a’ changing…then the Library’s gotta change too…
Mr. Palfrey’s book is an extremely insightful study of how that can happen and why it MUST…if a democratic society is to continue to flourish.
Thank you for all of your support of our Public Library.