A couple of days away from my PC and a couple of items pop up about libraries which are not so much anti-libraries but anti-books.
CNN published a piece about the future of libraries which talks about how libraries are re-evaluating their position, rebranding themselves as civic centres, and librarians no longer being shushing, but trendy (they have tattoos!). I’m surprised CNN have taken this amount of time to discover these aspects about libraries. Even in Victoria, at the arse end of the country at the arse end of the world ( to papaphrase a former fearless leader), libraries have been talking about the social capital generated by public libraries for years. They do have it on the money about the diminshed importance of books as information resources.
Which is what the Cushing Academy in the United States have realised, having converted their library into a learning centre, discarded their books and resorted to electronic resources. The headmaster of the school sees books as an ‘outdated technology’. Well they are- the information is out of date when published and can be expensive to update. However, what to do in the event of a power blackout? When your Kindle breaks down because you spilled some coffee on it? Browsing the shelves for similar books on a subject or for the same author will never be known by these students.
The library in which I work, relies more on online information through databases and web resources to satisfy client inquiries than our actual print collection. Historical information is progressively being digitised to allow easier remote access. However there are print two collections which are heavily used: the collection of Parliamentary Hansards which go back to 1856, and our small fiction collection.
Libraries ARE providers of information, but they are also a place for bibliophiles. Information may be the brains of a library, but its books are its soul.