I am in favor of libraries.

9780465042999Last Thursday, I took the morning off from work to watch my kids while their normal daycare provider (grandma and grandpa) had other responsibilities. It was a fun morning of cartoons, cereal-eating, and snuggles. But the highlight of the morning was the trip to the library.

I just read this article–something between a book review and a topical discussion–about John Palfrey’s book, Bibliotech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google. If you don’t feel like reading the full article now (even though you should because it is totally worth the few minutes reading time), let me just point to this paragraph.

A Gallup survey from 2013 found that libraries are not just popular, they’re extremely popular. Over 90 percent of Americans feel that libraries are a vital part of their communities. Compare this to 53 percent for the police, 27 percent for public schools, and just 7 percent for Congress, and you’re looking at perhaps the greatest success of the public sector.

A question I heard a lot while I worked at a brick-and-mortar bookstore was “Are eBooks going to kill paperbacks?” This question says a lot about the person asking it. Change is probably a dangerous idea for them and they likely going to be nostalgic for bookstores of yesteryear, thus they are already disappointed on some level with the changes that have already happened.

I could see people asking the same question about public libraries–“Are eBooks going to kill libraries?”

The answer to both questions is the same. The introduction of eBooks will definitely change things, but I think people are too quick to dismiss the importance that bookstores and libraries have aside from simply having books on the shelf. These are gathering places, discussion places, community places, and learning places. Valuable places.

What does the library (or a good bookstore) mean to you?

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4 responses to “I am in favor of libraries.

  1. I have mixed feelings on this because a bad library can do as much damage as a good one can do wonders. The library I went to as a child was wonderful it was in a little village and was warm and welcoming then I moved to a town and my book collection started growing. Te reason was the library here was bigger but also impersonal with staff that patrolled as if the books were prisoners that might escape, so instead I began buying books. When my daughter was little I took her and the kids library was good but as soon as she reached teen years and was ready to move into the big library she hated it as well, they never had the new books she wanted to read and she didn’t feel welcomed, Luckily my parents had moved back to the village I grew up in and she managed to get a membership for there under my parents address, but she now buys rather than loans books. Both of us are suckers for a good bookshop and love spending hours browsing at second hand bookstalls looking for treasures. My greatest treasure is a first edition The Crucible I bought at a charity bookshop.

  2. I am on the Board at the library in my small community, and the library is an integral part of the community. The library staff are involved in programs for seniors and children that extend beyond the walls of the library. We have also seen the increase in ebooks requested, but ebooks is a service we offer as a libray in addition to the traditional hard cover/paper back book. The library was the first thing I hunted for when I moved to this town. I think libraries will remain a vital part of communities.

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