As bookstores and publishing companies struggle to keep up with the e-reader revolution, old town landmarks across the country should be getting nervous. In this age of technology, libraries, at least in their original purpose, are becoming increasingly unnecessary.
Around ten years ago experts predicted that public libraries would be overshadowed as people started using the internet to get their information. But libraries were able to adapt to the changes and became a place for people to both find books and use the internet.
At 18 years old and about to enter college, I can say with quite a bit of certainty that I have not visited a library more than twice in the last 10 years. I am at the heart of the millennial generation, one that is notorious for being very tuned in to technology since we were born right when the world was changing over. But even I feel a pang of nostalgia when I look at the children’s section in any library, since that was where I sat during the years that I used the library.
Nowadays, I could hardly tell you where my neighborhood library is. The last time I went into a library I felt self-conscious among all of the book enthusiasts and people who clearly cared enough about reading to have a library card for a reason other than their parents getting them one. I also have self-diagnosed late-fee phobia, and I’m pretty sure I still have an unreturned book from when I was nine. Since that last trip to the Dallas Library I have lost my card and now borrow books with Amazon Prime on my beloved Kindle.
Not surprisingly, the ten biggest libraries in the country (with the exception of the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library, which rank at number one and two respectively) are all at colleges and universities. Learning institutions will likely be the last to let go of libraries, and maybe they never will, because they can keep up by subscribing to online databases like ProQuest and JSTOR and they have always been a place of refuge for those wishing to study in a quiet environment.
Some argue that in this age of the internet we need libraries more than ever because they provide people a place to learn and explore using a wide variety of sources including the internet. But the way I see it, all of those resources and more are available on the internet, which can be accessed at your neighborhood Starbucks where you don’t have to deal with a judgmental librarian.
The American Library Association boasts that libraries offer services essential to those looking for employment like software and resume-building resources. FedEx Office, formerly Kinkos, and similar business offer the same services, so losing libraries would not leave an unfillable hole for those looking for employment.
Sure, there are a few drawbacks to closing down the neighborhood library, like losing the well-restricted internet access that helps parents control what their kids see on the web and essentially forcing even those who aren’t technologically sound to buy sometimes-confusing e-readers, but I think that library funding—80 percent of which comes from local tax dollars—could be allocated to more modern uses.
All in all, I don’t think that losing the traditional libraries we have seen in the past 50 years will leave a big hole, moreover, many people probably won’t even notice. We need to let history run its course. Simply put, libraries have been overshadowed by the internet and e-readers, and ultimately need to be replaced.