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Can Architects Save Libraries from the Internet?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the it-would-be-kind-of-awesome-to-live-in-a-library dept.

Books 270

theodp writes "Slate has an interesting photo essay exploring the question of how to build a public library in the age of Google, Wikipedia, and Kindle. The grand old reading rooms and stacks of past civic monuments are giving way to a new library-as-urban-hangout concept, as evidenced by Seattle's Starbucks-meets-mega-bookstore central library and Salt Lake City's shop-lined education mall. Without some dramatic changes, The Extinction Timeline predicts libraries will R.I.P. in 2019."

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270 comments

No, they will all be outsourced.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618074)

...to Amazon!

The better question is: should they? (4, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618082)

Since I started my studies, I spent exactly 0 hours and 0 minutes in the university libraries. I access all the scientific material online, and even the books. Those very few books that I could not find in electronic form online (and by online I mean in our university's electronic library) and I could not do without, I bought them. But the idea of walking into the library, borrow a book and then return in in one week, it just feels impractical at this point, to me.

For antique books, sure, libraries will always exist, but even there I'd prefer to see them as conservation points where they are transferred into electronic format(s) made available online. Being an antique book collector myself, I would hate to know that precious antique books are being touched by people who don't wash their hands, or worse.

So basically, I don't think libraries have much reason to exist in their current form. Perhaps something like a public study-and-discussion place, with refreshments and internet access?

Re:The better question is: should they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618122)

And should public money be used for this? Can't it go to feed the homeless instead of giving rich architects something to do and for politicians to stand in front of?

Re:The better question is: should they? (5, Insightful)

mdd4696 (1017728) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618178)

I am a Computer Engineering student graduating this spring and I have spent many hours in the library. Many books I use are available electronically but I prefer to have the actual paper version because I find them easier to read and easier to search through. Also they do not have the multitude of distractions (IM, games, websites) that are on my laptop, which is very nice when I'm studying.

I like going to the library just to browse and to see what I can find. I would be quite sad if libraries were to disappear.

why not provide some improvements (5, Insightful)

irtza (893217) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618376)

As another who has spent a considerable amount of time in a library, I do find that there is room for improvement. I don't think that they will be gone anytime soon, but I think that a large part of the problem has to do with financing. My university library (undergrad) was only a place for me to study. I NEVER USED IT TO DO RESEARCH. Furthermore, in medical school, the library served the exact same purpose. On the flip side, as a medical resident, I used the hospital library extensively. Why? I am not going to pay to get access to articles my library can get me. That is the only reason I used it. I was doing research and it required me to get access to things I couldn't otherwise pay for.

Growing up, I used the library to be able to freely read books.

I think this remains the fundamental and most important role of a library. Equalizing access to information that the public could not otherwise get to. Sure, as a professional, I can afford to pay for things, but it seems that costs are proportional. The specialized texts I want now are considerably more expensive than the texts I had wanted earlier.

As long as there is an underclass, the role of a library will remain important. Given trends in society, the underclass is growing and the divide between those with access to information will only further it. Granted most people with access to resources don't use it, but every now and then it will make a huge difference.

Furthermore, one has to consider the library in question. A community library serves a very different purpose than a university library. I think that a community library would be better off avoiding trying to provide large amounts of space towards computers. Should they have them? Yes, its important to provide a complete set of services for those who may not otherwise be able to have them.

What needs to be done to ensure the relevance of libraries? How about longer hours? With changing work schedules, knowing that the library will be open would be useful. I hate having to leave an hour after arrival because the place is going to close. How about an in library mirror of the Gutenberg free text collection to ensure availability despite loss of internet connectivity. Libraries have been known as warehouses of information; just because the data is digital, this should not change.

Printing services for this information. How about being able to select a text from the Gutenberg (or other) online collection and paying X dollars to have a copy printed and bound in some fashion for pickup. This can be both a revenue generating and role preserving improvement to a library.

A coffee shop. I think that Barnes n' Noble have done more to "hurt" libraries than any other place. They're open longer and I can drink some coffee.... Its a huge improvement.

Club meetings - chess, reading - local competitions for the kids. There are many services that can be provided through a library that many libraries have already adopted.

My main request would be that they mirror important literary texts locally. Given the questionable and temporary quality of electronic media, its important to have as many copies distributed as widely as possible.

done ranting... need to find another task to avoid reading.

Re:why not provide some improvements (5, Interesting)

SacredByte (1122105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618746)

I agree on public libraries needing longer hours. The hours of my local library are as follows:

Monday - Thursday 9:30 AM - 9:00 PM

Friday 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM

Saturday 9:30 AM- 5:00 PM

Sunday 1:00 - 5:00 PM
These hours absolutely suck for me. I don't generally go to the library at any time other than late evenings/weekends. I can fully understand not having all departments open at all times -- All I really need is to be able to check out books. That takes maybe (tops) five library staff members (paid or otherwise). I can fully understand not having sufficent funds to operate all departments at 100% at all hours, but this doesn't mean you can't operate some departments without operating other departments....

Honestly, the library would be a much more practical place to study if they were open until 23:00 on Friday-Sunday. They don't need to staff the A/V department, they don't need to staff the reference department, they don't need to staff their computer center (they have public 802.11G) -- they just need to have a guard and a few people to handle checkouts.

Just my $0.02 USD.

Re:why not provide some improvements (2, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618784)

Growing up, I used the library to be able to freely read books.

Cue the MAFIAA saying this guy is a thief for not paying for his reading.

Re:why not provide some improvements (4, Insightful)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618836)

I agree with much of your comment and made similar points here [slashdot.org] . And I think the distinction you make between community vs university libraries is important because the two serve different functions, but at least in my field (English), many research resources are still in print and not available online. It's not clear if or when University Presses will start making criticism online en masse, and even if they do, so much of the twentieth century's critical output will remain in dead tree form that, at least for some, the library isn't going anywhere.

Re:The better question is: should they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618194)

I like going to libraries because it gets me out of the apartment, meet and see people, take a walk. I get to see magazines and books on subjects I might never even have heard of had I spent the afternoon on the net surfing for Brazilian tranny porn. Also, libraries are great for reference materials. I repair old (40 years +) oscilloscopes and sometimes I need to go to a university library to access very old data books. I also see the old reference works on microwaves and CRTs, titles I can search for on Amazon.

Re:The better question is: should they? (1, Funny)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618252)

"Being an antique book collector myself, I would hate to know that precious antique books are being touched by people who don't wash their hands, or worse."

Or worse ?

Does your wife know that you collect these kinds of books ?

Re:The better question is: should they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618378)

does your wife know that karma-whoring for +5 Funny doesn't actually increase your karma? jeeze, try cut+pasting TFA or something, these bozos always mod that to +5 Informative

Re:The better question is: should they? (4, Funny)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618316)

I don't think you can get a better question than 'Can Architects Save Libraries from the Internet?', only different ones:

Can jealousy save biscuits from a motorbike?

Can mice protect oscilloscopes from Scientology?

Should tardigrades steal tarte-tatin from the middle-eight of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird?

Tune in next week, same bat-time etc. etc....

Public Spaces & City Planning (3, Insightful)

Geof (153857) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618516)

That may be true in scientific disciplines. Right now, I have about two dozen books from the university library. Only a couple of them would be available online. Intensive reading is also much easier with physical books, which I read far more than papers: one of my courses required students to read two books a week.

University libraries are one thing; public libraries another. The local public library is very popular. Students do their homework there, access the Internet, or hang out after school. They have children's programs and other events. The building looks out over a sports field, with a view of mountains beyond: it's the sort of place people like to be. I drop by there several times a week. I borrow a lot of DVDs, but I also peruse the books. The key, I think, is that it's close by - I can walk there or drop in on my way somewhere else. If a library is integrated into the community, somewhere nearby and convenient, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't thrive. Books, movies, forums about the future of copyright, whatever - it will find a role. Unfortunately most of our communities are planned so that activities are isolated and reachable only by car. A library treated as a warehouse, to which patrons must trek to take out and return materials, is likely doomed.

Re:The better question is: should they? (4, Interesting)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618544)

Your argument seems to be that because you don't have much need for them they don't need to exist. Well, I hate to break it to you, but the world doesn't revolve around you and most people aren't in your situation.

Like most people, I'm not at university (any more), so libraries are the only access I have to a wide range of textbooks, scientific journals etc. I do buy books and the odd journal, but I couldn't hope to afford a collection even remotely close to what is on offer even at the public library, let alone the local university libraries (which the public can enter for free and join for a modest fee).

There are a hell of a lot of people for whom libraries are the only form of access to high-quality information. The internet hasn't changed that very much, because most of the best information still costs money.

Re:The better question is: should they? (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618852)

Wait a minute. Hold your horses: don't you think what you described is the present, without any mention of future trends? The trends are to move more and more books into electronic format, and then make available online. It doesn't take too much of a vision to see that it's going to happen.

Re:The better question is: should they? (5, Informative)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618610)

Since I started my studies, I spent exactly 0 hours and 0 minutes in the university libraries. I access all the scientific material online, and even the books.

FWIW, your experience is not entirely typical right now, because the sciences are well ahead of the other fields of study in terms of online material. A lot of this is because there is so little use in most sciences for older material (i.e., an paper on Shakespeare from 1950 might still be relevant, a biology study from then almost definitely won't be). So if there are only the last 10 years online that's just great, especially to someone like a medical student who won't (or shouldn't) look at much with a copyright date more than 5 years old. Another factor is that science publishing has become extremely centralized, especially journals. So when Elsevier went online, a huge percentage of medical journals are suddenly electronic. Finally, the article really talks about public libraries, which don't really have the same function as a university library, and certainly don't have the same resources. A university library can pay licensing fees for it's 10-50,000 students and employees; the Chicago Public Library probably has less funding and potentially millions of people who could use it, making licenses much more difficult.

For antique books, sure, libraries will always exist, but even there I'd prefer to see them as conservation points where they are transferred into electronic format(s) made available online. Being an antique book collector myself, I would hate to know that precious antique books are being touched by people who don't wash their hands, or worse.

Ha! I work at an archive cataloging American books published between 1750 and 1920. I wash my hands regularly after handling them, but it's more to get me clean than the books, because 19th century texts, especially if they were bound in leather, just shed crap all over everything. As for storage and transfer, that clearly is the future. A lot of libraries will go from being what are called "dim" archives (with things physically accessible, but closely controlled) to being "dark" archives (things stored offsite, or at least away from patrons and accessible in a matter of days and not minutes), at least for older/rarer/valuable material.

BUT, and this is a big but, librarians will tell you that there is not yet a tried-and-true method for electronic storage. The world is full of old storage media that are basically unreadable. What can we put things on that will still be good in a few hundred years? Or will there be some sort of reliable upgrade method? And are we really going to trust someone like Google to effectively be the repository of the world's knowledge?

Another issue is that of storing physical things. Libraries work right now as basically distributed storage. No library is encyclopedic, but if you can look at all of them (through something like OCLC's WorldCat) then you can find most everything. If, as we assume, the number of libraries storing physical things goes down, then it becomes more likely that the last remaining copies of a lot of texts are going to disappear. We can argue if this is a bad thing or not, but it definitely needs to be considered.

I hope not (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618086)

libraries are about the only places left where i don't see a bunch of thug-wannabe niggers

Extinction Timeline (5, Insightful)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618088)

The Extinction Timeline is total garbage. "Mending things" and repair shops are going to be extinct in 2009? Laughable. Secrets and text based searching, and the computer mouse by 2020?

Re:Extinction Timeline (1)

sdsucks (1161899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618134)

I took a look at that as well. "Total garbage" seems like an understatement.

Re:Extinction Timeline (2, Funny)

amccaf1 (813772) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618338)

Agreed. Half of the stuff on the so-called Extinction Timeline looks like it was put on there to a) cause controversy b) be silly and light-hearted.

Land-line telephones gone by 2011? Can anyone see that happening?

Retirement? Gone before 2020? What does that even mean? We're going to pull people out of nursing homes and stick them back into their factory jobs?

Lunch will be gone by 2030?

The phrase "thank you" will be gone by 2013? Are they anticipating us all switching over to LOLCAT talk by then and ending conversations with: "KTHXBYE"?

Re:Extinction Timeline (1)

amccaf1 (813772) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618366)

I just noticed that according to this timeline, Swiss Army knives went extinct in 2001. So, er, what's this [swissarmy.com] , then?

Re:Extinction Timeline (1)

Bwana Geek (1033040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618494)

Not to defend the list (I agree with the GP that it is garbage), but "extinction" -- for the purpose of this particular timeline -- is defined as "existence insignificant beyond this date." I remember a time when everyone had Swiss Army knives. Now I can't remember the last time I saw one. E-mail insignificant in four years, though? I highly doubt it.

Re:Extinction Timeline (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618694)

It's complete garbage. "Insignificance" isn't defined, and it's a subjective term. Wooden toys extinct? This blogger must be working class. Ashtrays extinct in a few years? Sure in some countries maybe -- in most? Not a snowball's chance in Hell. He's never visited Europe evidently.

These are trivial examples. The whole Timeline is so laughably retarded that it's unbelievable that anyone would post it here other than to promote their lame blog, and to sell their books -- which are no doubt written by the same intellectual dwarf.

Re:Extinction Timeline (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618534)

Buckteeth by 2021? Is Great Britain getting nuked?

The one that got me was waistlines disappearing in 2025.

Does this mean everyone becomes supersized lardos? To me, that just means they've got HUGE waistlines.

Or does it mean everyone gets "right-sized" - which means the disappearance of Americans, fat Canadian snowbirds on Florida beaches, etc ...

And "Thank you" disappearing by 2012? No thanks.

Text-based search disappearing in a decade? So all those html-based web pages will vanish?

Receptionists disappearing by 2015? Are you kidding. Receptionists do a lot more than answer phones - they usually know more about what's going on than the CEO.

Some interesting correlations - Cher dissapearing right before cosmetic surgey ... adn oil, the middle class, microsoft, spam, and rocky films disappearing in 2035 ...

Re:Extinction Timeline (2, Funny)

snarkh (118018) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618356)

Lists of predictions by 2050. Not bad.

No More Mouse (2, Interesting)

Layth (1090489) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618386)

I think the mouse is already outdated.
My webcam should be tracking my eyes, and know exactly where I am trying to click.

Just transfer the left / right mouse buttons & scroll wheel onto the keyboard and I can stop moving my hands!
Seriously, does no one else think it's impractical we have to keep taking our hands off the keyboard?

Re:No More Mouse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618522)

While we're at it, why do we need a keyboard? They should put a microphone in the mouse so you can pick it up and issue voice commands.

Re:Extinction Timeline (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618496)

Douglas Adams? Princess Diana?

Seriously, how can anyone take this seriously? If it's an attempt at humor, it's a really bad one.

Re:Extinction Timeline (3, Informative)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618624)

The Extinction Timeline is total garbage.
Yes it certainly is, and it appears to have been created by "some guy". If he has any academic qualifications and credibility it's not immediately obvious. I have the sense that the blog hosting the Timeline is written by someone who looks like he has all the credibility of an NLP snake-oil positive motivation seminar leader.

I strongly suspect sock-puppetry is somewhere at the root of this "article".

Mending Things (2, Interesting)

Blancmange (195140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618642)

I concur. The availability of cheap, good quality, sophisticated and powerful tools makes it even more rewarding to build and mend stuff these days.

That the Internet provides inspiration for D.I.Y. projects is a big factor, too. Sometimes, I'm inspired by the World Wide Web to go to a library, even. Having library services available on the Web makes using a real library all the more worthwhile.

I think calling the Extinction Timeline garbage is an understatement. Sometimes I can make cool stuff out of garbage.

Re:Extinction Timeline (2, Insightful)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618660)

I like "Coins" in 2033. Do they mean physical money? Because governments would love to ditch paper money, which wears out and needs to be replaced really frequently, with coins. So I assume that the paper money would go earlier, or else they're just saying some random thing for no reason.

I think copyright (2020) would have to go before libraries (2019), because a lot of the point of libraries is getting physical copies of things you can't get electronically because of copyright.

And "Beyond 2050: Uglyness" is absurd, because a lot of the body mods and "improvements" people make tend to increase their ugliness. The more choices some people get, the uglier they get. "Bad taste" will have to go before "Uglyness" will!

Is it a bad thing? (4, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618092)

Quoting the summary:

The grand old reading rooms and stacks of past civic monuments are giving way to a new library-as-urban-hangout concept
I'm not the youngest guy here, although I'm certainly not the oldest, either :). I still love the first whiff of paper I get when walking into a library; it brings back wonderful memories of days spent reading as a child. However, I also remember the excitement I felt when my city's library (City of Decatur, GA at the time) got computer stations installed to aid in searching for materials stored on CD-ROM stacks. It was a logical extension of the library concept, and was immensely useful compared to their existing "green screen" (actually amber) lookup system or the tried-and-true card catalog system.

I also remember the first time I dialed into a BBS and discovered volumes of reading material I could freely download... next came my first exposure to the Internet through USENET and later the WWW. My excitement grew with each new advance in information sharing. These technologies were all logical stepping stone extensions to what came before them, and enabled me to access worlds of information that simply weren't attainable before.

Would I mourn the death of physical libraries where I can walk up and down the aisles? Yes, but for largely sentimental reasons. While the dreams a "paperless society" have largely been unfulfilled to date, the time is rapidly coming when many of the core concepts will be a reality. I'm an optimist in that I like to focus on learning about new ways to share information.

Re:Is it a bad thing? (3, Insightful)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618142)

I think libraries will still need to exist. The heart of the concept exists in free (or atleast cheap) public access to information. Even if the libraries of the future turn mostly into public internet cafes, with some older multimedia and text resources stored in their original format, they will still be our libraries.

Re:Is it a bad thing? (3, Interesting)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618212)

free (or atleast cheap) public access to information

Libraries are funded by tax dollars.

public internet cafes

If this means Free internet AND Free coffee, I am in. And they should have a comfortable place to sit. And a comfortable place to discuss ideas with others.

As silly as it sounds, the greatest thing about public libraries during my college years was the chance to privacy for my studies and meeting with course project groups.

So, while libraries won't need to be a place to store books/information, they SHOULD be preserved as a public place to (a) find peace and quiet or (b) gather and discuss interesting issues.

Re:Is it a bad thing? (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618254)

Free for certain values of direct cost to ones self. Libraries could die and my tax return wouldn't change a bit.

Re:Is it a bad thing? (2, Insightful)

robertjw (728654) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618324)

Libraries could die and my tax return wouldn't change a bit.

While this is probably a sad reality, this kind of thinking is definitely part of the problem with our modern tax system. Our tax returns, sales tax bills we pay on every purchase, gas tax, etc... are all impacted by thousands of government projects that don't seem to add up to that much individually. I have nothing against libraries, but if all this information could be available electronically, why are we putting tax dollars into supporting the buildings and staff to store the information in book form? Doesn't make sense to keep libraries around just for posterity. Billions of dollars each year are put into libraries, if they are underused and no longer a viable model for public service, why not just eliminate the concept? If we did enough of that, it would change our tax returns.

Re:Is it a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618724)

if they are underused and no longer a viable model for public service, why not just eliminate the concept?


There is a local branch library down the street from me. I live in an urban setting.

During the day, there are always a few patrons in there.
After work, the place is much more busy than a comparably sized retail store (the till has a continuous line).
On weekends, it is totally packed (probably exceeding it's fire capacity).

I think it's a very long ways away from be "underused and no longer a viable model for public service."

Re:Is it a bad thing? (1)

kc2keo (694222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618362)

I believe that libraries will exist for a long time into the future. I don't really see them dying. I picture more of a internet cafe style like the other poster mentioned. If there were programming books in digital format and in physical paper format I would always choose the physical. Largely because I feel that I can easily parse through a book and can mark it up, fold pages, etcetera. Digital formatting is still not my preference for certain things.

Re:Is it a bad thing? (1)

Nero Nimbus (1104415) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618654)

I can see libraries sort of turning their reference sections into small data centers, with a treasure trove of free reference material backed up on a central server that's made accessible through the computers on-site. You can't take reference books out of the library now, so I don't see that as being a big deal. Just shove a bunch of hard drives in a file server, and load it down with ebooks that have been properly sorted and organized. They could even keep the Dewey Decimal System.

I don't, however, see how checking out books would work in that situation. Not without some sort of DRM, or disabling/ripping out/pouring epoxy in all the USB ports, just to keep the publishers from crying that they're legalizing the pirating of ebooks.

No matter what, libraries are going to evolve. I personally welcomed the demise of the card catalog, but I don't think that libraries themselves will die out. That could just be wishful thinking on my part, though.

Re:Is it a bad thing? (1)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618794)

Thanks for posting this, as I agree with much of it. But I'd like to note that, at least in Seattle, the computer and other stations supplement rather than supplant traditional library functions. I live close enough to the Seattle central library mentioned in the article to use it somewhat regularly. The entrance off fifth street, which is the main one, has a lot of tables, some computers, free wi-fi, new/interesting book stacks that are quite low (such that you can see over them), and magazine racks. There are also some fiction racks. But there are also many, many floors of books -- more than you can read in a lifetime. And that's just in the central library, let alone the many branch libraries.

Physical libraries aren't going anywhere yet, even if many people only use them as a kind of public Netflix queue (you can reserve books online at the Seattle Library Site [spl.org] ). We're still a long way from a paper- and DVD-less society, and even if the Internet has "volumes of reading material I could freely download," there still isn't much of the well-edited, well-written material that's in books. Yes, yes, there's lots of good stuff on the Internet and lots of bad stuff in books, but I've not found any free, legal site featuring modern fiction that I would actually want to read, for example. To be sure, some books have been obviated by the Internet, which I discuss in the context of Tim Harford's The Logic of Life [wordpress.com] , in contrast to Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational [wordpress.com] .

But the Internet isn't there yet; both books I mention have blogs and websites associated with them, complementing the physical book, just as libraries have computers to complement their book selection.

Not holding breath (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618096)

Libraries will be RIP when you can browse any book / periodical / reasearch paper etc online.

And I mean any periodical, the microfilm of a 1972 NY times to a book thats been out of print for 20 years.

However I don't see that happening anytime by 2019.

There is still plenty of material at the library that is not available on the web.

Re:Not holding breath (4, Interesting)

amccaf1 (813772) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618196)

Libraries will be RIP when you can browse any book / periodical / reasearch paper etc online.

And I mean any periodical, the microfilm of a 1972 NY times to a book thats been out of print for 20 years.


To expand on your point, it's good to remember that just because something is available on the Internet, it does not necessarily follow that it is automatically better/easier to view than something that it available at your library.

For example, most (if not all) of the New York Times archives are available on-line... but for a fee. The New York Times charges $3.95 for a single archive or $15.95 for a ten-pack of articles. Compare this to a archive of the newspaper in a bricks-n-mortar library which will allow you to look through their records for free as long as your willing to work the microfilm reader.

If, for example, you're a sports writer who is researching contemporary coverage of the 1972 Mets, you'd end up paying quite a lot more to do your research over the Internet as things stand now.

Re:Not holding breath (1)

VENONA (902751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618732)

They can be low cost gateways to a *lot* of Internet material you'd have to pay for. I can hit my public library's Web site, and have access to full text articles from 11,000+ magazines, archives of the state's leading newspaper, the local paper (back to 1859), all sorts of databases, etc. The list goes on and on. Most of it, of course, I don't use. But what I do use, I have to spend several hundred dollars to get without that library card obtained at nominal expense, then renewed for free.

It's also a pleasant, relaxing space. I enjoy being there.

It also has *books*. I can scan through several physical books I lost faster than I can perform the equivalent operation over the Web, even if the books were there. Checkout period is three weeks, and I can renew on the Web site. I won't even go into the audio/video aspects.

It also has *librarians*. The ones I've asked for help have been great; knowledgeable, friendly, and available. You get that sense that you're dealing with someone who enjoys their job. They also get points from me for ruining former Attorney General John Ashcroft's day when they fought him over warrant-less searches of what citizens read, etc., due to some of the more despicable bits of the Patriot Act. So anyone who wants to think of librarians as a bunch of little old ladies might stop and conjure an image of little old ladies putting down their knitting, and picking up their war axes.

This is in a town of about 50,000 people. The main library is centrally enough located that I drive within 2-3 blocks of it at least once or twice a week, without fail, but parking is dead easy. It's a great local resource, well worth supporting, and many people do. In fact, it's getting a much larger building, with a new location within about two hundred yards of the current location.

I just don't see it going away. In the first what, 13-14 [1] years or so of mass Internet, my local library hasn't just survived, it's thrived.

[1] I don't know how most people judge the arrival of mass Internet. I know I was building Web sites in 1994, and at the time I had to explain to most people what a Web site was.

Re:Not holding breath (1)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618398)

Wow, parent is currently rated -1, Insightful. An Anonymous Coward has sucked insight out of the discussion.

The problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618136)

Why would anybody want to head to a large public library and deal with the parking issues, the vagrants, the bureaucracy, etc. It is just a pain in the ass. Small local libraries are a better solution. But even they hold little advantages over going to your local Barnes & Noble and reading. I think it would be better that cities started contracting with book sellers for lending books than to continue their path towards oblivion. Perhaps the only libraries that are still flourishing are university libraries. And they are only successful because of their research material niche.

Re:The problem (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618282)

Small local libraries are a better solution.
By definition, smaller libraries can hold fewer resources.

But even they hold little advantages over going to your local Barnes & Noble and reading.
Except for the fact that your local Barnes and Noble is operating as a for-profit enterprise, and won't have many older titles in stock.

Perhaps the only libraries that are still flourishing are university libraries.
This I agree with, although I can't see why they couldn't function electronically as well.

Re:The problem (4, Informative)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618472)

"This I agree with, although I can't see why they couldn't function electronically as well."

You don't mean entirely electronically, do you?

I'm an academic working in the field of medieval culture. While I can access facsimiles (print and electronic) of medieval manuscripts, it's sometimes essential to look at the originals. You can't rely on a facsimile to tell you whether pages have been removed, or whether two texts were originally bound together or created separately. A facsimile won't always show up erasures from the text.

What I'm trying to get at is that there are two ways of treating books (and other sources of printed information). The first is to see them as simple repositories of information, whose content can be translated into electronic form without any loss of meaning. The second is to see them as objects of study or artefacts in themselves. Some books can be treated in the first way without any problems; others must be treated in the second unless we're prepared to lose a lot in understanding them. For me, this second category of book is one reason why libraries will never entirely disappear.

Burned out books, and homeless patrons... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618146)

Libraries need to be seriously saved from being free homeless shelters. Match this with a collection of books that would make 1980s science and literature proud, and it's no wonder why people find it easier to go to bookstores rather than libraries.

The day libraries can prevent their books from being torn into toilet paper by careless patrons is the day they will stand a chance. Note I didn't mention anything about charging late patrons a fee twenty times in one run to earn revenue...

Re:Burned out books, and homeless patrons... (1)

jnana (519059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618586)

This depends on your library. I used to live in silicon valley, and the San Jose library system had a great catalog with many new books, including tech books. I used a bookmarklet that would automatically take me to my library's webpage for a book I was viewing on Amazon, and I could then request it be delivered to my local library. When it was ready for pickup, they'd send me an email. It doesn't get much easier than that, and I'd say at least 75% of the flavor of the month-type books I was looking for (e.g., Freakonomics [amazon.com] , Blink [amazon.com] , Stumbling on Happiness [amazon.com] , God is Not Great [amazon.com] ) were in the system and available (they bought many copies of these sorts of books). They even had a highly recommended but hard to find book on C that I had been looking for (Pointers on C [amazon.com] ).

So I'd say it really depends where you live, what kind of people live there, and how much the library caters to the tastes of its local residents.

Libraries becoming extinct (2, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618148)

Netcraft confirms it!

(sorry, just had to get it in)

Best thing about libraries is they are quiet places to study, read, write etc. I use them for research and when I need to get away from the internet.

So it looks like they are going to try to produce something that will be state of the art and competes with electronic media. This will be doomed from the start as technology changes so rapidly, any library built will probably be obsolete before it is finished. Probably the best thing to do is figure out a libraries strengths and play to them instead.

my .02USD

seems more about money (2, Insightful)

mrcdeckard (810717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618164)


"education mall"? really? only a politician who is trying to line his pockets could come up with something like this.

this has less to do with making libraries urban hangouts than subsidizing the shops that are now going into them.

even knowledge/education is a commodity/industry in america.

teachers will be called "knowledge technicians"

mr c

Re:seems more about money (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618260)

I've been to the Salt Lake City library and it's absolutely gorgeous. In the corners there are small rooms with fireplaces (if you've ever been in SLC during the winter, you'll see the attraction - I've only been in the spring and autumn and I was glad of them). Most of the building is full of books, but there are also a lot of places near the windows where you can sit with a laptop and work. If I had somewhere like it locally, I'd spend a lot more time in the library.

Books reading off a computer screen (4, Insightful)

vajaradakini (1209944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618168)

Yes, I get a lot of articles for my work from online journals, but sometimes (especially with older articles) they aren't scanned in and I have actually gone through stacks of old journals and dug up an article and photocopied it. Aside from this, whenever I do find an article online, I print it off if it's important and relevant enough for me to read it and then I highlight it to hell and put notes everywhere. You can't do that with pdfs (well, if you want to save it anyways) and I can't curl up on the couch, lie on my back and hold my laptop above my face for an hour while reading an article either.

It would be terrible if we lost libraries and books. I can't imagine a generation of kids downloading books and printing them out or staring at a computer screen all day reading one. I know that when I was a kid I couldn't afford to get my own books and my parents seldom bought them for me (well, once I grew out of books they liked me to read) so the library was my salvation. I never would have gotten into a great number of authors and subjects if not for libraries.

Re:Books reading off a computer screen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618460)

The problem here is you're assuming that kids won't have laptops at least as nice as current top-of-the-line e-books. It won't be long before just about everyone has access to computers which are just as easy to curl up with and read as books. You'll be able to highlight and whatnot too through the touch-screen interface.

Re:Books reading off a computer screen (1)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618474)

You can't do that *yet* but I doubt if it'll be terribly long before you can. A touchscreen and a good program will let you take all the notes you want... an e-paper screen will let you read off a screen more comfortably and make it light enough and low power enough that you could hold it above your head to read if you liked.

Honestly there's no inherent value to printed paper... for now it's better then a computer screen for reading books, but it's only going to improve from here. I could see a really good e-book reader, good enough to fully replace books, by 2019... but I doubt enough of them cheap enough to replace books, though perhaps enough that printing will slow significantly.

Re:Books reading off a computer screen (1)

Eighty7 (1130057) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618728)

You can't do that with pdfs (well, if you want to save it anyways) and I can't curl up on the couch, lie on my back and hold my laptop above my face for an hour while reading an article either.
http://www.doctorsgadgets.com/images/iliad.jpg [doctorsgadgets.com]

It's not backlit.

Re:Books reading off a computer screen (1)

dondelelcaro (81997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618740)

You can't do that with pdfs (well, if you want to save it anyways)

Actually, you can, and yes you can save it.

See xournal [debian.org] for an example.

Re:Books reading off a computer screen (1)

vajaradakini (1209944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618780)

Crazy. It's still not as transportable though.

Good riddance. (1)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618172)

What is it about run-of-the-mill brick-and-mortar libraries, in their current form, that offer a substantial benefit to society over online sources? I can think of dozens of drawbacks, but it's much harder for me to see the advantages.

Just because some neo-luddite English teachers freak out at the mere sound of the word "Internet" and consider it an abomination that destroys "proper education" doesn't mean the rest of society should care. A certain amount of significant libraries (such as the Library of Congress) do serve useful purposes (historic, legal, cultural, etc.), but they aren't the one that suffer the threat of extinction anyways - it's the everyday district branch libraries which are at stake here. And they wouldn't be on their way to extinction if they actually offered some advantages over their electronic counterpart.

I CAN see ways that libraries become "social hubs" where people physically meet to share and learn ideas, something that can't be done as well over the Internet. Maybe we'll see some of these new-generation brick-and-mortar libraries, which would be renamed to "educational centers" (akin to cultural centers). But the old concept of the "quiet library" with the disciplinarian librarian saying "shhh" every time someone opens their mouth, is on the way out, and, may I say, good riddance.

Re:Good riddance. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618382)

I CAN see ways that libraries become "social hubs" where people physically meet to share and learn ideas, something that can't be done as well over the Internet.
For our generation, that's probably true. For anyone 15 years old today, online relationships and discussion forums may be far more heavily and effectively utilized than face-to-face library setting meetings.

Re:Good riddance. (1)

HiVizDiver (640486) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618604)

I CAN see ways that libraries become "social hubs" where people physically meet to share and learn ideas, something that can't be done as well over the Internet. Maybe we'll see some of these new-generation brick-and-mortar libraries, which would be renamed to "educational centers" (akin to cultural centers).
They already have these, they're called Starbucks.

Seriously, I cannot think of a time in the last two years that I've walked in to one (or any coffee shop, for that matter), where there wasn't at least one group of people clustered around laptops obviously discussing something more important than last night's game.

I doubt it (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618176)

Sure, they will be something different then we have today due to changing times/tech, but i don't see libraries ever going away.

urban hangout? try indigent hangout (2, Funny)

boguslinks (1117203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618232)

The grand old reading rooms and stacks of past civic monuments are giving way to a new library-as-urban-hangout concept

As opposed to the library-as-indigent-hangout concept, which has been around for decades or maybe centuries.

You know what I hate about libraries (1)

jg1708 (1246046) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618248)

Boogers! Seriously, just about every library book I have ever read has had at least one booger smear in it. Seriously, I am not someone who is overly obsessive about cleanliness.

Books not found on the Internet or in Libraries (1)

c0d3r (156687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618262)

I had some 3 reference librarians looking in the San Jose Library in the Silicon Valley for anything printed about restoring my 1952 chevy pickup truck, and they were unable to find anything. I'd check the library at UC Berkeley (largest west of the missisipi), but they only allow students into that library ..sheesh.. can I browse the library of congress catalog somewhere. By the way, I finally found something and it was in my Uncles garage - any help on any technical information would help.

M

Re:Books not found on the Internet or in Libraries (1)

jnana (519059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618680)

Yeah, the UC Library is awesome. It's also available to UC alumni [berkeley.edu] , so to all the current UC students: you have 3 years after you graduate to get a lifetime membership in the alumni association for $500 [berkeley.edu] . After that, it's $750, which is still a good deal for a lifetime of being able to use the UC Berkeley library (and other UC libraries too). I pretty much always have about 20 books checked out from the library, and that $500 is the best $500 I ever spent. I use it far more than I did when I was a student.

I assume other university libraries have similar arrangements for alumni, so if you're the sort of person who is likely to want to read a lot of stuff that university libraries are great for (I use cal's library primarily for math and comp sci), don't forget about your school library.

Re:Books not found on the Internet or in Libraries (1)

LibSpook (1061282) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618706)

Hi c0d3r, Try WorldCat http://www.worldcat.org/ [worldcat.org] for any library stuff like that - here's just one location of the manual http://tinyurl.com/yqqkl9 [tinyurl.com] - you might have to have the physical copy snail-mailed as an inter-library loan to you. Want to buy your own copy? Go here for most out of print stuff - http://www.bookfinder.com/ [bookfinder.com] - here's your truck manual - http://tinyurl.com/3x7q2y [tinyurl.com] That took 5min :) thank god for Librari(an)s eh?

More Doomsday Vaults (1)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618298)

Perhaps what's called for is a book vault, in the spirit of the recently built Norwegian seed vault [wikipedia.org] .

I'm reminded of something from Max Headroom (a truly brilliant show for anyone who is not familiar with it, on par with greats like [imdb.com] Blade Runner [imdb.com] and Demolition Man [imdb.com] for its crisp and witty vision of a possible future dominated by television). In the series, nearly everyone has given up all their privacy information to the computers, of course, except for a small few who refused, a long time ago, and have no records. They're called Blanks because society can't easily track or understand them. One of them, who is called just Blank Reg [imdb.com] in order to have a name at all, gives someone a book at one point and says [wikipedia.org] , "It's a book. It's a non-volatile storage medium. It's very rare. You should 'ave one." The insight of the throwaway remark has the deep understanding and precision targeting of many of the throwaway lines in The Simpsons [imdb.com] or South Park [imdb.com] .

The issue is not so simple as the loss of a thing we're all fond of. It creates the risk of a catastrophic loss of all of humanity's information, since books are more than just outmoded relics. What is not outmoded about them is their accessibility and their duration, which even given the lifetime of paper still well exceeds the lifetime of a typical CD or a storage format. The area of survivability [typepad.com] seems like it comes quickly into play as a serious matter.

This is not to say that it's bad that Google and others have been scanning things [google.com] , since that adds redundancy of survivability to the system. But it's to say that there's a risk in the other direction of the loss of technology that would allow Google to operate, and in that case, books are a very reasonable backup.

Not just the architects' responsibility (2, Informative)

arcsimm (1084173) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618322)

IANAArchitect (though I am an architecture student), but it would seem to me that decreasing relevance of the library in the urban fabric is more of a problem of programming than design, and one that is being addressed just fine already. As the Internet becomes a valid source of information and entertainment, the libraries are shifting focus, becoming more akin to public computer labs. While the appearance is different (rows of PCs instead of books), they still serve the purpose of providing free democratic access to knowledge. The next big shift is creating a more social atmosphere within the library, which as the TFA shows is ongoing and would seem to be effective.

Is the library changing? Most certainly, yes. Is it dying? Not so much.

Check out Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge (2, Funny)

Exp315 (851386) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618332)

A fine novel by a fine SF author (review: http://blog.wired.com/tableofmalcontents/2006/11/vernor_vinges_r.html [wired.com] ) He forecasts (probably tongue-in-cheek) the end of paper-book libraries when a private company gets the contract to digitize all the remaining paper books by the equivalent of the Human Genome Project "shotgun" technique. Their quick and efficient method of digitizing is to throw multiple copies of the book into a shredder, blow the fragments down a tunnel lined with scanning cameras, and fast computers piece all the fragments together to make a 99.99% accurate representation of the original text. Naturally they are opposed by book lovers who consider this horrifying - but it's all incidental to the main story line. I love Vernor Vinge's ideas!

Re:Check out Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge (1)

LibSpook (1061282) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618818)

Not so "tongue-in-cheek" unfortunately. From GoogleBooks "Q: Can you return my books when you're done with them? A:Our scanning process requires that your books be dismantled - as a result, we're unable to return your books to you." Yup, to digitize a book cost effectively it gets "dismantled" - destroyed that is. Oh well can't have everything :)

Libraries for technical books (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618340)

Our local library is beautiful, but the computer section is pure crap. The problem seems that around the mid to late 90's, there were too many sub-topics and not enough people reading each of them, so most of the books are about windows 95 and html 2.0 with a couple newer ones and then they just gave up. Unless they have the cash like a university library, they just can't keep up with the very expensive tech book collection required to satisfy a diverse range of knowledge.

Re:Libraries for technical books (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618684)

I've noticed the same thing at any non-University library I've been in.

My hometown has what is considered a sizable and well-funded library for the size of the town it's in, but the computer-related books stop dead at 1997, and the only programming books are a couple of ancient ones dealing with BASIC.

It has little to do with the amount of cash the library has and a lot to do with what they think their visitors want. The history section here is _huge_, because the town has many people who are interested in local and national history. Even if I donated several of my more up-to-date and in-depth CS books, they would wind up in the discard pile in a year or less.

University libraries are well-stocked because the people running them care about completion; they want a thorough collection of each subject, even if some books go years between check-outs.

Re:Libraries for technical books (1)

jnana (519059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618726)

I've always thought that this would be a great business idea for a tech-centric area like silicon valley: a private for-profit library-like system for borrowing flavor-of-the-month tech books, which usually go for $40-$50 a pop and which you seldom will read again.

Buying them is expensive, and used book stores generally won't buy used tech books at all, because they are so quickly obsolete, which makes it doubly painful to buy such books when most of them are 90% fluff and 10% content.

libraries are never going to go extinct (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618342)

their reason for being will simply evolve

this is even hinted at in the story summary

we still have colisseums, we don't feed christians to lions in them. we still have public squares, we don't have gallows in them

true, we don't really have forts with cannons and we don't have stables, but we do have military installations, and we do have garages

so its not like the need for a public place for information storage and retrieval will go ever go away, just how it is accessed will change and evolve

Re:libraries are never going to go extinct (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618520)

exactly as snail mail has mostly gone the way of email (cept for critical business docs), so will libraries become rooms of servers dedicated to serving out the info to the masses. Only then one library will be able to serve, potentially, the world, whereas now and before libraries could only serve those who can visit it physically.

libraries != book deposits (1)

dumb_jedi (955432) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618350)

People have to understand that, no matter how many times Jimbo Whales says it, wikipedia is not reliable. As a whole, the information found on the internet is not reliable. It's nice for facebook and blogging, and yes, blogging can be a powerful tool when it gives voice to people that otherwise would be silent. But who guarantees that the information you're reading right now is correct ? Oh, sure, someone will find out that an article was vandalized, but how many people read that article between the time it was altered and the time it was restored ? How do I know that a blog article is correct ? Would you trust a doctor that uses wikipedia as a source ? I'm sorry but I wouldn't.

But as a engineer, I tell you I couldn't graduate without a library. Yes, I DID walk in a library, check out some books and study by them. If you want to study seriously, you will use more than one book, just because some authors explain some parts better the others, so you can learn the best from each book. Libraries are a necessary tool for education. I'm not saying that the electronic version of books isn't useful, but I use them as a reference, as I can search much faster for some specific topic. Good books are invaluable.

Besides the obvious point in education, what about ALL the good literature books out there ? Will you buy them all ? J. R. R. Tokien, George Orwell, William Golding, Aldous Huxley, J.P. Lovecraft, Shakespeare, Joseph Conrad ? Ok, I di want to own Lord of the Rings and some other works, but why not just check them out from a library ? It's free, and it's much better to read a book on paper than on a computer screen. Go for a stroll on a sunny day, take out a good book.

Call me old fashioned, but I think that libraries shouldn't be turned in to shopping malls. We should encourage people to go there and discover what they keep as a matter of culture, not because you can drink a coffee while you get to surf with free internet access.

Or my view is biased because my mom is a librarian ;-)

Cheers!

Only WiFi is required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618364)

I am with Bjarne on this one.
Bjarne Stroustrup, creator of the C++ programming language, claims that C++ is experiencing a revival and
that there is a backlash against newer programming languages such as Java and C#. "C++ is bigger than ever.
There are more than three million C++ programmers. Everywhere I look there has been an uprising
- more and more projects are using C++. A lot of teaching was going to Java, but more are teaching C++ again.
There has been a backlash.", said Stroustrup.

I work in a library (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618388)

I work in a library that has 16 branches. While much of our catalog is stocked with books we have many popular DVD's and multimedia selections that cost thousands of dollars. Many of our patrons cannot afford to buy these (including myself). We also have free on-line newspapers and free subscriptions to many paid-for content on the web such as the Rosetta Stone for language learning. All this for $12 per year.

We are very technology focused and offer free wireless internet access at all of our branches, in addition to free public terminals that are currently Windows-based but we are looking into replacing them with a Linux-based desktop with OpenOffice to save costs.

Our library is not that unique, most well funded libraries are very advanced and are embracing the technology age. Check out you local library and you will likely be surprised at what they have to offer. Notice that I said "well funded".

Hype (1)

Voline (207517) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618420)

Predictions on the internet are not worth the electrons they are printed on.

For anything longer than a long magazine article I much prefer to read a hard copy than on-screen. I'm not the only one by far. The library has been improved by computers. They do not render them obsolete.

In Portland the Multnomah County library catalog is on-line. I can look up a book that interests me from my computer, put a hold on it, and it will be shipped to my local branch which is 3 blocks away from my apartment. When the book or CD arrives I get an email notifying me that I have 5 days to pick it up. All of this holds true for interlibrary loans, as well.

The computer has made the public library more relevant to me, not less. But an article about this would never be sexy enough to make the front page of slashdot.

Libraries = Public Good = that means everyone (1)

pazu13 (663695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618430)

Haven't RTFA'd, but aren't libraries a public good? Yes, when I was a university student I barely used the physical library, relying instead on papers I could get online, etc., but the reason I could get access to those paper databases was because the school funded my access, and I paid for part of it with my tuition. These were academic databases - as far as I knew, there was no equivalent database of fiction, non-fiction, etc., just bookstores, Amazon.com et al., and, yes, libraries. At my local library in town, I've got a library card (that was either free or $2, can't remember which at present) that provides me access to an immense set of writing for gratis. What large-scale databases of books - that is, mainstream current literature, not things that have gone out of copyright, such as Project Gutenberg - are present? If some version of the Kindle is both cheap and lets users read current books both legally and for free (some kind of checkout system?), the library seems likely to remain. On the point of public good: libraries are for everyone, not just the tech-savvy. Sure, it's great that people are getting connected, it's great that people have the disposable income to buy lots of books, but libraries serve many populations of people, not just those who are on the proper side of the Digital Divide. Do we really think that the digitally illiterate population of America (given that the topic is American, not that the digital divide is just a national issue) will have dropped to nothing by 2019? Because I am really dubious of that. tl;dr Just because many people on one side of the digital divide have disposable income and like their books on terminal screens, it doesn't mean that a service provided for the good of the populace as a whole will whither and die.

Free Education (3, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618438)

The death of the library is a harbinger of the death of free education.

Gone as a literary resouce but still important... (1)

DanWS6 (1248650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618448)

During my recent years at college I went to the library probably around 30 times. I never checked out a book, or have any idea where the different sections were located. The only reason I went was for a quiet place to work or to an area that I could collaborate with other students. Thanks to the Internet I could always find information available for writing reports and thankfully my professors never required me to have a book source. The biggest challenge I had on campus was finding a quiet place with no distractions to work.

I worked in a public library for 6 years... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618486)

and it is decadent. Computers from 1998, a few wifi stations that are "new for 2008." 75% of all costs go to the the staff payroll, and less than 15% actually go towards the collections. All jobs in the library are easily machine replaceable and they should be. For those of you worrying about some kind of "human touch" in information interaction, consider that the library routinely throws out books. These books are in good condition, many of them are outdated textbooks that would serve third world countries well. The hight of insult was when I found an old but crisp "Complete works of Plato" in the recycling bin. I was studying philosphy at the time and this majorly pissed me off.

My job was to put books in order. I was worthless. There was an army of people like me doing this. Nuke the library.

I don't know about you (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618510)

But I still use libraries, and the internet has only improved my ability to use them. Now instead of straining my eyes reading a book hundreds of pages long or straining my computer trying to find a semi-illegitimate book, I just use my local college's LINK+ network to get almost any book ever written. From rare and obscure manga to even dungeons and dragons source books--if you know where to look, you can get almost any physical book you want. To make things better, the library itself has many public computers, printers and copiers for when my own break or for when I just happen to be out-and-about and unable to return home (and unwilling to play games with the school's wireless).

Why have libraries anyway? (1)

overcaffein8d (1101951) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618532)

That might have been a bad subject, but this is my point: If you can check out music from a library, and you can check out books from the library, and you can even check out dvd's from the library, why can't you just get them from the internet?

Why don't the RIAA and MPAA call libraries piracy? Those who go to libraries think that sharing knowledge and "intellectual property" in the form of books is necessary and should be free. Those who "steal" music, etc off the internet do as well.

I don't think that the RIAA should target only the poor college age teenagers when they could get the whole government for property theft! ...so why don't we just get a big big big server from the library of congress to hold all books, audiobooks, songs, movies, etc on a web server, and give them free to the public?

Re:Why have libraries anyway? (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618764)

Book publishers are not the biggest fans of libraries, but what are they going to do? Sue a government? The ladies that check out thousands of romance novels each year, individually, would scream bloody murder. Then the local pols will step up to protect the privileges of these people to use stuff without paying for it, and, if it is an election year and there are TV cameras involved, denounce the corporate greed of these profit mongers who are disturbing the registered voters. This is what they'd have to do to get at libraries. So teens of America, pony up the cash!

Re:Why have libraries anyway? (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618770)

There are a lot of reasons. Some people may still feel that downloading is wrong on some level (power to them), but that borrowing the physical object is alright (let's not have an argument on this). Libraries may also be faster, or just plain easier (contrary to belief, there is NOT a torrent for every movie, and there is not a scan of every book). Finally, not everyone has the same access to computers and internet. The difference in accessibility in public libraries is not so great.

Libraries are evolving (1)

solar_blitz (1088029) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618546)

If a library doesn't have what you want, they're usually networked with other libraries around the county or state, allowing you to search for books through their databases. If you find one, you can request it to be sent to your library for pick up, essentially expanding your amount of resources tenfold. It takes a little time, for sure, but it's better than searching library after library looking for the right book. That's all thanks to that whole computer networking thingamajigger people have been raving about. Really nifty, too. Used it myself when I worked at a library.

Libraries are going to continue being the main source of information for people as long as they can maintain their relevance in the digital age. The way libraries can network to provide content is just one way of doing it, but it isn't perfect by any means - it can improve, either through a faster delivery process or digital transfers. The doomsday vault for books sounds good, too. But I seriously don't think Google is able to solve the problem of "I'm looking for that book that talks about the thing you mentioned yesterday." For that, librarians and library scientists are important. They can guide you to what you want better than any search engine could.

Another way to make a library better is to make sure the shelves aren't filled with crap written by authors like Kevin Trudeau [wikipedia.org] or James Frey [wikipedia.org] . As much as I love books and the information in them, it seems like anybody within earshot of an editor or publisher can get him or herself a book deal, for better or worse.

Library now = "Discovery Centre" (1)

raised eyebrow (1192017) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618572)

This is what our local library was recently reopened as, though presumably not because it's now far more difficult to "discover" the whereabouts of the few books which were left behind.

My university's library was also recently extended, for which it won the city society's "best new building" award, yet it is the internet facilities within the library which are most frequented, closely followed by the coffee shop rather than the book sections. This isn't surprising as researching on the internet is highly encouraged to the point at which it's easy to get away with solely using online references.

Maybe the traditional fine system needs to be reviewed in order to attract users back: when I was ticked off for the late return of a couple of books, knowing from the catalogue records that no other student hadn't bothered to borrow or reserve any of our reading list throughout the module, it did make me wonder why I didn't save myself the bother and just go on the internet instead. It's just that I prefer cutting out the "middle man", as online copies aren't guaranteed to be of quality or even complete, but also because I don't believe that Google is a replacement for a good librarian, particularly a subject librarian, who can locate far more using the tricks of their trade.

For years as a child, I spent the whole of every Saturday in the library curled up with a good book or 10. Maybe that's not what my son will be doing in a couple of years time, but I'd like him to at least have the choice.

If I had a nickel... (1)

Stupid Sixty Nine (1249634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618580)

I've been a librarian for almost 12 years now. If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that libraries were dying and were going to be replaced by the Internet, I'd have retired by now. The truth is the author nailed it right on the head on the very last page of his article, where he said "On the other hand, in its mutating role as urban hangout, meeting place, and arbiter of information, the public library seems far from spent. This has less to do with the digital world--or the digital word--than with the age-old need for human contact." Libraries are changing and growing to embrace the world of electronic information, while maintaining there links to the past. The stereotype of the library as a deathly quiet tomb being policed by shushing librarians is entirely out of date. My library is a hub in the community, where people can come to chat over a cup of coffee or sit and watch a DVD on a cold day or pop in over lunch to check their e-mail. Parents continue to bring their children in for storytime, but now the storytime might be filmed for a video podcast or shared with another library via videoconferencing. And I've yet to see an e-book reader that matches the quality, ease, and portability of a paperback (though I have no doubt that this will change in time). Even then, libraries will remain as a cooperative for the sharing of e-books to share with others, as there would be no other way for users to have access to as many items as they do in the library without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on books. So don't count out libraries yet - heck, you should stop in some time and see how much your local library has to offer.

Kindle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618584)

Who gives a cock about Kindle? That's not a threat..

The internet has increased my library usage. (2, Interesting)

AnotherDaveB (912424) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618590)

Being able to search the library catalogue, and reserve books, online has increased my library usage. One of the handier things web access has given me.

the end of Western civilization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22618628)

Western Civilization is over. It was nice while it lasted.

Why libraries are going to be around for awhile (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618664)

1) People like to read books. A computer screen is good for article length stuff for most people, but most people would never read a whole book on the computer.
2) There are not even remotely enough crap romance novels online to satisfy the women that read that stuff. They are a huge portion of the patrons of libraries. If you obliterated every other kind of book, there would still be substantial library traffic for books with Fabio on the cover.
2a) Libraries are the only places that know about romances for men. They are disguised as westerns, but they are flat out romance novels. I've worked at a B&N and no one had a clue about these.
3) Libraries are government institutions, thus their usefulness to people is neither here nor there. Even if no one ever went to a library again, that they are funded by taxes means they will never go away.
3a) Although they will not go away, they will continue to spend a lot of money on certain kinds of online resources which nearly no one uses, but makes the library administrators feel like they have a clue.
4) There are a lot of smart, educated and lazy people out there. The library is where we *ahem* they work.
5) There are areas where there are no bookstores, where the bulk of the parents and the kids in the area don't read. The libraries in those areas are the only way for the few who do read to get books.
6) There are quite a few databases that are available for a cost. And many library systems subscribe to those databases so it very well may be that you will get that info you need online, but because of the library's subscription to that database. I've helped gobs of guys with car trouble, a subject I am not exactly up on, by using AllData.

Not A Library (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618696)

> The grand old reading rooms and stacks...

That's a library.

> ...library-as-urban-hangout concept, as evidenced by Seattle's
> Starbucks-meets-mega-bookstore central library and Salt Lake City's shop-lined education
> mall.

That isn't.

In Holland we still use our libraries (1)

PartyBoy!911 (611650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618710)

http://www.oba.nl/index.cfm/t/Homepage/vid/BC638BCA-3FFA-497D-9CA1C74A819C832A [www.oba.nl] Facts and Figures The new Central Library will annually have contact at least 2.5 million times with visitors looking for information, culture, communication and education. Think of it as 50 times a full Amsterdam ArenA, or 1.500 times a packed to the rafters Concertgebouw. 2.5 million visitors per year, on average 7,000 per day, indicates the importance Amsterdam Public Library has for the city and the region. * 200 staff members * 84 opening hours per week: 7 days per week, 12 hours per day from 10am until 10pm * 1375 seats in both large and small scale spaces * quick-reference counter with expert advisors * 50 multimedia workplaces * 110 catalogue terminals * 26 lending machines * print and photocopying facilities * Pin and Chip payment possible * Education room for 50 participants * Accessible by train, bus, tram, metro, car and bike * 28.000 m2 * 1,000+ seats (600 with PCs/internet/MS Office) * 270 seats in the Library Theatre * 6 Meeting Rooms (space for 25-75 participants) * Meeting places (Foyer, Restaurant, 2 reading cafes) * www.oba.nl = online 24/7 * 1.200 parking places * 2.000 secure bike racks

Stick to the original mission of libraries (2, Insightful)

kbaud (1001076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618762)

Just because information is transistioning from paper to electronic form doesn't mean the original mission of the library is no longer needed.

If we find that people seem to be getting dumber, libraries are partially to blaim since they haven't stuck to their original mission.

Libraries are meant to lift up the community. To push knowledge into the dark corners that exist everywhere, not just in the minds of the poor. Funded by tax revenue, they increase the buying power of the average citizen and lower the cost to access knowledge. They increase demand for that knowledge by stocking it in warehouses. They make that knowledge easier to access by organizing it and providing assistance in finding it.

Some libraries have lost their way because they thought it was all about the paper. Some have simply become centers for the poor while the rest of the community is increasingly satisfied by the deluge of cheap, easy but often lower quality information found online. Notice how most of the information in wikipedia is pop culture? Where is the depth? The trend is towards the dumbing down of the citizenry.

Libraries have a mandate by the tax payers to continue to be booster for knowledge. Don't think installing a bunch of internet workstations is the going to be enough. They need to come to us, here on the internet. They need to put up websites where knowledge that normally costs extra, requires physically driving to a certain place or otherwise is difficult enough to access that more and more people simply ignore it, is made easily accessible. There is a lot of information on the internet but it lacks depth in key areas. Libraries have that information and can put it on the internet using public funds. The net result is that the average citizen is once again encouraged to delve deeper into the depths of knowledge and not be satisified by the common knowledge available on the street.

This boost of knowledge in a community can occur by:

1. Provide access to paid information services on the internet (newspapers, etc) for no extra charge

2. Scan and digitize information on a ongoing basis and make it available online. negotiate copyright access for the community

3. Organize information so that it is easier to find. this means developing websites that are easy to use and provide quick access to democratizing knowledge

And I am sure there is more, have to go before I can finish writing this...

books are good for reading (1)

rubah (1197475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618832)

I still don't like reading e-books. I think the only one I have ever read in its entirety was Neil Gaiman's Coraline on an evening when I was pretty feverous.

The internet seems to have eroded my ability to focus on blocks of electronic text that are larger than yae lines long, and xxxx pixels wide. (going to a laptop with higher resolution has helped this a little bit, as well as going back to actually reading books and making myself read the whole paragraphs until I was satisfied that I had read it).

The problem with books is the limited number of hours in which you can access them and the lack of information of what they're about (especially if they lack a cover with summary), not to mention the limited number of hours available for reading them (more if I didn't spend so much time on the internet typing up how I don't have time to read books anymore 8))

They're much easier on the eyes than the screen. I can only imagine what it would've been like on all those harry potter release nights if I was trying to read a PDF scanned in like some of my friends did.

Then some people might comment on the massive amount of room that books take up. I don't mind. My parents raised me with numerous bookshelves in my house, so there's a nice feeling of comfort from being surrounded by a few hundred books.

Good idea (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22618850)

In my area, most of the people coming to public libraries are there for the internet access.  It's kinda the public tranportation of tech.

I think the idea is a winner.
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