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What the ‘death of the library’ means for the future of books

“Forbes contributor Tim Worstall wants us to close public libraries and buy everyone an Amazon Kindle with an unlimited subscription. “Why wouldn’t we simply junk the physical libraries and purchase an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription for the entire country?” he asks. Worstall points to substantial savings on public funds, arguing that people would have access to a much larger collection of books through a Kindle Unlimited subscription than they could get through any public library and that the government would spend far less on a bulk subscription for all residents than it ever would on funding libraries. Is he right? Are libraries obsolete? He might be correct — but only if libraries were just about books, which they are not. Libraries are actually an invaluable public and social resource that provide so much more than simple shelves of books (or, for those in rural areas, a Bookmobile like the one this author grew up with). A world without public libraries is a grim one indeed, and the assault on public libraries should be viewed as alarming.” (via The Week)

One Response to “What the ‘death of the library’ means for the future of books”

  1. Brian
    August 21, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    People like this Forbes reporter REALLY bother me when it comes to their uneducated views of libraries. You can tell that they haven’t been into an actual library since the days of the card catalog, and that there is so much more going on than what they think. You know he has never come into a library on a Storytime day and seen the interactions formed between the librarians and the families as a love for books and music begins to form from a very early age. You can tell that they have never walked into a library holding GED or English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to help them enrich their lives and become more productive, better educated citizens. You know that they have never witnessed a teen program, especially those in at-risk communities which help teens grow in a positive environment, rather than being out on the streets. They never see the outreach librarians engaging their communities by working with vital community organizations and reaching out to those who are in nursing homes or other places that care for vulnerable adults, engaging them and helping them through activities which are designed to keep their minds going strong. They have never seen a library staff member bridge the digital divide through hands on computer training, or offer internet services to those who cannot afford them, offering them a chance to land a job in such a difficult economy when many places now only allow online job applications to be submitted online from a valid email address. They don’t see the Maker Faires or any other types of programs which encourage ingenuity and innovation, yet are free and open to all who have an idea or two to share. What they fail so badly to understand is that the library is one of the last “free” places where people of all walks of society, no matter their race, social status, financial standing, religion, sexual orientation or any of a hundred other possible means of discrimination, can go to enrich and better their lives. That, more than access to any best seller that can be bought through Amazon, is why America’s libraries are thriving today, in spite of continuous budget cuts and the challenges that go with it. I challenge this man to walk into any library, and spend a couple of hours there – watching the staff interact with patrons, witness a program, talk with staff about how they spend their day and find out what they actually do, and pick up a flyer or two to see what is actually going on there beyond the “books” that this writer so carelessly thought are the heart of the role of libraries in society. Maybe if this person did, his view would change, and he could inspire others who follow him and read his opinionated columns to change their minds as well.

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