I've always loved libraries--the stacks of books and periodicals--all that information (almost like being a kid in a candy store)--and the quiet space to enjoy it.
But in the digital age, where people are reading books and magazines on e-readers, news on smartphones, downloading videos with Netflix and watching shorts on YouTube--what is the new place for libraries?
Libraries will always provide a peaceful place for reading, thinking, and writing whether with hardcopy or digital media, but libraries need to meet peoples information needs, incorporate the latest technologies, and fit with the times.
The Wall Street Journal (7 February 2013) describes a new library in Texas that "holds no books"--it is all-digital--you "check out books by downloading them" to your own device or a borrowed one.
While many people still like holding a physical books or paper to read--I know I do, especially when it involves anything more than browsing online--Generation Y is comfortable for the most part getting it all digitally--and then you can electronically highlight, annotate, and share as well.
Some libraries are offering a mixture of paper and digital--actually "more than three-quarters of U.S. public libraries feature some digital books, and 39% offer e-readers for patrons to borrow."
One of the things holding back the all digital conversion are publishers who don't want to lose print sales, and so they won't offer all new titles electronically or they charge more for it than for paper copies.
I envision that once we have 100% broadband penetration--where everyone in the country has Internet access--then we all can purchase or borrow the books, periodicals, music, and videos online from anywhere--in other words; libraries will become vastly virtual, instead of predominantly physical structures.
With more information online than at any library in the world, information growing exponentially, and with online resources available 24x7 (versus set hours for a brick and mortar library), it would be hard for any physical library to keep pace in the digital age.
Aside from physical libraries for traditional use, we need easy to use elibraries, where all information resources are available all the time, where students or those that can't pay can get it for free or at an appropriate discount--and where help is just a click away.
Of course, many of us also don't mind a hybrid solution, like being able to go online and borrow or purchase a physical edition--maybe they can just drop ship it overnight or same day is even better. ;-)
(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ellen Forsyth)