The bookless library– a prominent point of discussion in the library world and a topic that has now also caught on in the mainstream media. The topic is a heavy one, especially for library professionals and library supporters everywhere; to think of a great institution coasting towards obsolescence is scary, but nonetheless a definite possibility if libraries don’t adapt to change.
There have been many articles, lectures, blog posts and tweets about the future of libraries, but none, in my opinion, have completely and coherently explained the situation and choices that libraries, especially public libraries, are facing in today’s information landscape. Until now. Check out the fantastic article by David A. Bell, published July 12, 2012 on The New Republic entitled The Bookless Library: don’t deny the change. Direct it wisely. Here are the first couple of paragraphs to wet your reading appetite:
“They are, in their very different ways, monuments of American civilization. The first is a building: a grand, beautiful Beaux-Arts structure of marble and stone occupying two blocks’ worth of Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. The second is a delicate concoction of metal, plastic, and glass, just four and a half inches long, barely a third of an inch thick, and weighing five ounces. The first is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL). The second is an iPhone. Yet despite their obvious differences, for many people today they serve the same purpose: to read books. And in a development that even just thirty years ago would have seemed like the most absurd science fiction, there are now far more books available, far more quickly, on the iPhone than in the New York Public Library.
It has been clear for some time now that this development would pose one of the greatest challenges that modern libraries—from institutions like the NYPL on down—have ever encountered. Put bluntly, one of their core functions now faces the prospect of obsolescence. What role will libraries have when patrons no longer need to go to them to consult or to borrow books? This question has already spurred massive commentary and discussion. But in the past year, as large-scale controversies have developed around several libraries, it has become pressing and unavoidable.”
To read on, please see the article online on The New Republic‘s website.