Reasons for libraries: Internet, E-books and IT

“Public libraries have a vital role to play in supporting the ambition to secure a truly networked nation in the UK. They are not only digital hubs which provide people with access to free or low cost PCs but also have a role in supporting people to get online and explore all the benefits that being online brings.”  Martha Lane Fox, UK Digital Champion

“Our libraries are one of the “jewels in the crown” of this country, allowing people who cannot afford to buy books access to them. We are able to see books that are out of print. We are able to see rare and valuable books. They are vital for both leisure and scholarship. Yet they are being closed down. Please stop this, and re-open our public libraries and give them a massive boost.” National UK petition to save libraries

  • 88% of books are not available online, more print books published each year than in previous year.

    “Myth 4: Libraries are obsolete: Everywhere in the country librarians report that they have never had so many patrons. At Harvard, our reading rooms are full. The 85 branch libraries of the New York Public Library system are crammed with people. The libraries supply books, videos, and other materi­al as always, but they also are fulfilling new functions: access to information for small businesses, help with homework and afterschool activities for children, and employment information for job seekers (the disappearance of want ads in printed newspapers makes the library’s online services crucial for the unemployed). Librarians are responding to the needs of their patrons in many new ways, notably by guiding them through the wilderness of cyberspace to relevant and reliable digital material. Libraries never were warehouses of books. While continuing to provide books in the future, they will function as nerve centers for communicating digitized information at the neighborhood level as well as on college campuses.” (Five Myths about the Information age)

  • In addition, even those online are not entirely safe.  Google proposed deleting its entire video archive in April 2011 and only stopped due to public protest.  The same could happen with Google Books.  Equally with other groups – Facebook have been deleting political groups without warning too.

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Public access PCs connected to the internet and printers are one of the key “offers” of a public library

Qidenus ScannerDigital scanning of books complements, but does not replace, library buildings.

“Darnton points to the fundamental role of the “library as space,” where librarians and other resources play a “service role” in helping people to access information. Traditionally, this information has been confined within the walls of an institution; in the future it will increasingly be accessed digitally. Because the Internet is harder to sort through than a library catalog, there’s a strong case that a library’s core services are actually becoming much more important.”  Stealing Libraries, Harvard Crimson

The internet may not be free or equal in the future.  “Net neutrality” is currently under attack, which may lead to two levels of internet provision – a full access paid for version and a poorer quality free version.

“One of the arguments against the need for a network of public libraries is that we ‘all’ have access to the internet (of course we don’t but that doesn’t fit the narrative). This is all well and good at present, but with ‘net neutrality’ under attack and an increasing amount of content being locked behind paywalls, it won’t be long before we find that the internet as we know it is but a distant memory” (Ian Clark, “Shut Out” ORGzine)

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