Recently, Mayor Bloomberg announced his plan to cut funding for NYC public libraries, a decision that will result in massive layoffs and cuts to hours and services. With so many libraries facing budget cuts and bookstores being closed down, it might seem like there is no room for book sellers and lenders in such a digital future. Now that people can research online and read books on their Kindle, the act of going to the library to work on a school project seems like an anachronism. But no matter how digitalized this world gets, nothing can quite replace the service provided by the public library system.
In an age where kids as young as 10 are ditching novels for iPhones, libraries are more relevant than ever before due to their emphasis on learning and culture. A public library allows people, regardless of financial situation, to access thousands of books and articles and records, a lot of which aren’t available for free on the internet. Instead of being sidelined, libraries should be upgraded and respected in order to encourage people —especially young people — to develop a love for learning.
Far from being just a storehouse of books, a library is a community center that plays a central role in bringing people together and in fostering a deeper appreciation for knowledge. At their local library, people can share ideas, hold book discussions and readings, gain learning opportunities and take classes, and connect and engage with other people. Summer reading programs at local libraries encourage children to read, and cultural events provide opportunity for intellectual growth. For so many people, the library is a sanctuary.
On a more personal note, I have always regarded my local library as a second home. As a child, I would spend hours in the library; it was amongst those winding shelves that I developed my love for literature. Even now I frequently visit the library, issuing half-a-dozen books each week. Without access to such a system, I would never have the luxury of being able to read so many books.
While traditional, printed books are receiving fierce competition from their digitized counterparts, they can never be truly replaced. For me, the act of turning the pages of a beautifully bound book can never be replaced by scrolling through pixels on a screen. Of course, e-books are important, but they don’t have to be the only choice. Rather, e-books and traditional books can co-exist to provide readers with a lot more options.
As the publishing industry focuses more and more on electronic materials, libraries are successfully transitioning from the analog to the digital age. All libraries offer internet services, and 90% of libraries offer some form of technology training. Instead of being replaced by technology, the library system can evolve to meet the technology demands of today.
Society only stands to lose from destroying public libraries. Despite their shrinking resources, libraries play a crucial role in facilitating knowledge and skills, and are more significant than ever before.