But why are libraries necessary in this age of the internet and Google? Isn’t every scrap of information we could ever want soon going to be available online?
Well, all the things that the internet can’t provide are part of the essential experience of going to a library. First, there’s the place itself: a special place, dedicated to assembling knowledge and making it available....
A book is infinitely more comfortable and pleasant and informative than a screen. The very impress of the print on the paper is a valuable part of your experience of the book.
Libraries give us this physical engagement in a way that no Google ever will.
Thirdly, there’s the infinite value of browsing. You simply don’t know what you’ll find till you’re in front of a range of shelves full of books. Of course they say you can browse on the internet, but it isn’t really browsing; some system or algorithm has done the selecting for you. Much, much better to stand in front of a shelf of books and simply pick them up and look for yourself. You never know what you’ll find — and that’s exactly the point.
Fourthly, there’s the library staff. What helpfulness, what experience, what knowledge! Compared with a face-to-face conversation with a real live intelligent informed human being who knows the sort of thing you’re looking for and can suggest more ways than one of getting to it, the internet is like an automated answering service: ignorant, mechanical, inhuman, stupid, graceless and hugely frustrating. Long live librarians.
So libraries of every sort are treasure houses. I love them, I cherish them, I use them all the time, I could not bear to live in a society without them....
I’m on the side of everyone who uses libraries, from the little child looking through the picture books, to the scholar searching for hard-to-find knowledge, to the busy man or woman looking for something entertaining to read on the train, to the poor old vagrant who’s just come in to sit near the radiator on a winter’s day. The library is for all of us. Let’s look after it!
Ht to normblog.
Monday, March 27, 2006