With the closing of Borders and the budget-cutting at the state and local level, it’s worth asking what the value of a library is.
I grew up loving libraries, and my parents took me every weekend. I learned more content from weekend library trips (and the subsequent hours of reading) than all the hours of schooling I had. I admit that I have fetishized books to some extent; I love the feel of the corners, the smell of the pages, the crack of the spine.
And yet, in an age where books can be digitally mass-produced, is a big room full of books as obsolete as a chained library? The printing press made books readily available; then the paperback made them cheap and easy to distribute; and now the digital age has made them invisible packets of ones and zeroes to be ported around in a tiny electronic reader.
Libraries are trying to adapt, to be sure, picking up eBooks and trying to become community centers. But I wonder if libraries will bring the same kind of joy I felt as a child, or whether the sterilized world of eReaders will shutter these institutions.
Maybe I’m just romanticizing the whole thing. Libraries were never places where people came together to build community or share ideas, per se. One had to be quiet in the library, and the little study spaces cut you off from other people. Children’s programming existed, to be sure, but that wasn’t the focus of a library.
It’s weird for me to imagine a world of libraries with all the trappings of libraries — people studying, reading, and researching — but none of the books.