This post was inspired by a discussion with the 12 year old daughter of a friend. We were talking about finding information on the net and I mentioned our local library as a possible source location. She looked puzzled and when I asked her why, she said that she had seen a library on a field trip when she was in the first or second grade, but has not been to one since then! Further, that everything that she needed was on the internet. It seems as though the totally connected, tech savvy, student of the future has lost the value of a public community library. I attempted to right this apparent wrong, but in some instances, she may have some legitimate basis for her lack of understanding the full scope of the "new library".
I advised her that in our town, with less than 20,000 population, our library was fully equipped with computers with internet access, multimedia rooms, classes of all types, full research assistance, interlibrary access, genealogy search, music group performance, and more. DVDs, CD's, copy services, online access from home, and skilled professional library personnel to help with questions. And, all that you need is a library card!
But, the future may be uncertain for some libraries. Most are funded by local taxes, private donations, and some state and federal assistance. The fortunate ones have corporate sponsors as well. But the current squeeze on money may make some of these repositories fail in their mission to educate and inform. And, I advised my young friend that everything is not on the internet for free. For example, many scholarly articles are buried behind "pay walls" where a single journal reprint may cost 35 dollars. I can get the same article through the interlibrary loan for free at my public library.
Many of the professionals at our libraries are not getting rich. Salaries are generally below comparable skill levels and volunteers help as well. So, take a trip to your local library and meet the new services and see what you may have been missing. While you are there, read a real book. Leave the eBook reader at home...