There has been much speculation over the past few decades as technology evolves and reality-changing technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and well, e-readers, have found their place in life and libraries.
Many believe the value of libraries have been lost on a new generation that wants the information they need at their fingertips instantaneously in the form of their mobile phone. Silicon Valley is blamed for disrupting an age-old traditional and reliable resource in the public and academic libraries. Amazon is constantly having fingers pointed at them for trying to be a “better library”.
Amazon is about providing art and entertainment. Public libraries support personal productivity and cultural engagement. Libraries allow for parents to actively participate in their children’s reading. Libraries are not just a place to find books, they’re also one of the few places that provide a number of free services to the American public. They offer a safe public space for people to gather, computer and internet access to those who don’t have it, story time for children, a safe space for teens, resources for the unemployed and homeless. Patrons find that public libraries improve quality of life and are a good use of tax revenue.
Amazon is a corporation. Profit is at the center of its business strategy. Fundamentally, it is not here to provide a public good. It exists solely to make money. Even when presenting a charitable front, like Amazon’s Smile campaign, which donates only around 10 cents per $20 spent, it still benefits from the majority of its profits.
Libraries and librarians fill in the significant gaps created by our society ignoring the impoverished, underserved, and most vulnerable populations. Our government continues to take away from our public services — national parks, arts programs, museums funding, aid for children with disabilities.
Public libraries are a fantastic tool for community involvement. Twenty-five percent who go to the library learn about political or cultural organizations or leisure activities taking place in the local community. More than 20% who go to the library with friends or colleagues to work together on a common assignment or a leisure activity. Seventeen percent use the Internet at the library to contact friends via e-mail, to chat, or to participate in discussion groups, etc. Sixteen percent use the library to learn more about local matters, social or political issues, etc., that they are involved in. Fourteen percent participate in organized meetings, such as author’s nights, lectures, meetings with politicians, etc. Ten percent use the library as a place to meet family or friends before going together to the movies, into the city, to do shopping, etc.
Technology has not replaced the library. In fact, libraries are becoming increasingly important in the world of providing technology. A majority of public libraries report that they are the only free source of computer and Internet access for the communities they serve.
There are studies after studies showing the benefits of libraries on community development, personal enrichment and growth, and the development of the workforce. The American Libraries Association hosts the list of those studies here.
Libraries are irreplaceable, regardless of the advancement of technology. Anyone who believes in the power of art to change and enhance our lives must also agree that the idea it should only be available to people who can pay for it is preposterous.
Melody K. Smith
Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in taxonomies, metadata, and semantic enrichment to make your content findable.