Trinity College library, Dublin, via Libraries In Crisis.
By Dee Donavanik, Publicity Director
Last week, the Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, FL opened the doors to a brand new library. The fact that a new library is opening and not closing is perhaps news in and of itself, but what makes this one particularly unique is that it is completely devoid of physical books. With an assortment of over 135,000 books, the new university embraced going totally digital as part of their mission: “ to prepare 21st century learners in advanced fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to become innovative problem-solvers and high-tech professionals through interdisciplinary teaching, leading-edge research, and collaborative local, regional and global partnerships.”
The library has its supporters and critics, and similar arguments have been made in the endless debate of e-books vs print books. Forbes contributor Tim Worstall even recently argued against both libraries AND print books and suggested that we close the libraries and buy everyone an Amazon Kindle unlimited subscription. Though Worstall’s suggestion may seem like a cost-effective solution on paper, it’s important to note that libraries are about much more than books. And as S.E. Smith explains in The Week, “A world without public libraries is a grim one indeed, and the assault on public libraries should be viewed as alarming.”
Though there are plenty of arguments for why libraries still matter, here are a few:
Libraries are a valuable public resource. In his piece, Smith explains that people go to libraries for more than books . Historically they have been a resource for those who can’t independently afford books, access to internet and other materials.
Libraries provide a sense of community. In addition to books and internet access, libraries also provide other resources such as reading activities for children, various educational classes, and even just a general space for community gathering.
Reading isn’t dead. Just because there is an increase in people using e-books doesn’t mean the demand for physical books has gone away. Libraries are also adapting with the times and providing e-books that can be borrowed.
Libraries are amazing archives. Though most information can be found online, not all of it is accurate and not all of it can be accessed freely. With online resources, certain archives may disappear after a set amount of time. Libraries help us preserve precious information.
Libraries provide an inexplicable experience. Most of us have great memories of going to the library as a child and being overcome with the excitement of being able to pick out some books to take home (at least if you’re a book nerd like myself). The library provides an experience for us that just can’t quite be explained.
If you need more convincing, Julie Dressner and Jesse Hicks released a fantastic short documentary explaining Why Libraries Matter.
Related: The Power of Radio