Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bye Bye Libraries, or, Buy Your Own Darn Books

This column in the (London) Times Online from a guest contributor caught my eye: The Personal Library - Now There's an Idea . Author Helen Rumbelow states that the "public lending library" is a Victorian idea, that like the public bathhouse, was useful in it's time, but it's time is past. She lists several reasons why libraries are no longer a good idea:
1: "we can afford (to buy) our own books." "for a few quid Amazon will deliver to your door." "Let us admit that people can buy their own books if they want to." Or, if not, she suggests getting books at a thrift store or reading them in a bookstore.
2: "the internet happened. ...anything you could want...the computer could do better."
3: "book-borrowing has dropped by 40 per cent while the cost of the service — now at £1.3 billion — has risen by the same proportion."
4. but, she opines, "to be anti-library is thought to be anti-book, literacy and all nice, decent British virtues that come with being shushed by a lady in a cardigan."

As I reread this (yes, while wearing a cardigan) I am simultaneously astounded at her unsubstantiated assumptions and resigned that many people apparently would agree with Ms. Rumbelow. People often ask me if I have been replaced by the internet. The answer is "no." At least I don't think all the people who I helped with their research today, and the people who take my computer classes think that I am a computer-in-a-cardigan. In fact, reference librarians are busier than ever. Next blog post, after I calm down and rest from all the "shushing" I did today, I will tell all about the modern public library and why it is not an anachronism and why librarians are not cardigan-wearing dinosaurs (ok, maybe the cardigan-wearing part is sometimes accurate...) but excuse me, I see a patron wandering around in the stacks looking for a ....BOOK!

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