'The End of the Library'

MG Siegler, writing for TechCrunch:

[I]t’s hard not to imagine a future where the majority of libraries cease to exist — at least as we currently know them. Not only are they being rendered obsolete in a digital world, the economics make even less sense. One can easily envision libraries making their way to the forefront of any budget cut discussions.

I know this sucks. Libraries have been an invaluable part of human history, propagating our culture and knowledge over centuries. But recognizing the changing times and pointing out the obvious shouldn’t be considered blasphemy. It is what it is.

The internet has replaced the importance of libraries as a repository for knowledge. And digital distribution has replaced the role of a library as a central hub for obtaining the containers of such knowledge: books. And digital bits have replaced the need to cut down trees to make paper and waste ink to create those books. This is evolution, not devolution.

I would argue that libraries can still serve a purpose despite the harsh reality that Siegler justly points out. To me, libraries can still be useful so as to remind the youth — young children in particular — what a library is and does. (Then proceed to tell them about these archaic places called bookstores and record stores.) And, of course, libraries still have value if only for being a place where you can see and touch and smell real, dead-tree books. Even now, my life awash in digital bits, I still have a fondness for books. That said, I can’t remember the last time I was in my local library or had a current library card.

I just hope real books never go away. That would be a true travesty.