It’s now possible to imagine a world without libraries.
It’s a sad thought.
I love libraries but I haven’t needed to borrow a book in years. I still have a state library card for Tasmania. It’s tucked away in my purse along with my Blockbuster card which I too have no use for. I’ve thought about throwing them away-as they are taking up valuable card space- but I can’t bring myself to do it.
It’s a reminder of how far technology has come.
I no longer rely on non-fiction books for my studies. Instead I use online journals and publications for a number of reasons: they contain the most recent information, are accessible from home 24-7, are peer reviewed and I can use a key word search to quickly establish if they have the information I need. The library in comparison has limited copies of books, borrowing times and various classification systems. If I had to decide between online databases and a library I’d choose databases.
As I’ve mentioned before reading has been a big part of my life and I go crazy if I don’t relax with a book. I used to borrow fiction books from the library by the bag full but now I find myself either buying them for a few dollars at a second hand bookstore or downloading them on my kindle in a matter of minutes. Speed, ease of access and limitless titles on online book stores means I no longer rely on libraries to get my fix. I even have my own virtual library now as my friends and I loan our kindle books with each other.
While I can accept (just) that we may find ourselves in a world without libraries I wonder what, if anything, will take their place. Although we were once drawn to libraries based on our desire for knowledge I think we are also seeking a sense of community- a space to discuss ideas or simply sit quietly surrounded by others.
As we spend more time building our online communities I can’t help but think we are neglecting real world ones. Where will we go when we are seeking social interaction if community spaces like libraries are gone? Maybe I’m being selfish. I don’t even use libraries so why should I care? I do because I have the best of both worlds. And future generations may not.