Are Libraries Dying in the Digital Age?

Unfortunately, the title of this blog is more than just a rhetorical question about the future of our public libraries. While these community resources continue to enjoy immense popularity and usage, particularly in most of our urban centers, their continued public funding appears to be in jeopardy. It seems that more public dollars are being invested in underwriting the construction costs of cavernous sport complexes throughout the country.

Perhaps the irony in all of this is that technology’s ability to search and retrieve information from anywhere in the world and put it in the palm of our hand, may be the very force threatening the future of these historic repositories of human knowledge. If you are fortunate enough to have a smartphone and the connectivity wherever you may be, going to the library for the sheer pleasure of browsing or enjoying a quiet space may quickly become a cherished memory of your pre-digital life. If public libraries do become obsolete, we will be losing “the power plants of intellect and opportunity . . . distributed without regard to wealth” (Dwyer, NYTimes, 4/24/15).

Please understand that I am not trying to pit the future of professional sports against the continued existence of public libraries. But I do think this comparison of the amount of public funding invested in sports entertainment while our libraries struggle for the dollars needed for basic operational expenses and maintenance is truly a “wake up” call. Inevitably, I hope that we will all continue to value and support the services of our public libraries and not become hostage to the frenzy of building bigger and better sports complexes at the expense of “our power plants of intellect and opportunity.”

Ray Myers

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