I get the feeling that libraries are obsolete, like public baths and most other great victorian philanthropic institutions. Don’t get me wrong, I love books, and I loved libraries 30 years ago when I needed them. But now even the poorest in our society has a device in their pocket capable of downloading and reading more books than you could ever hope to finish in a lifetime. And the best of them are free now.
There may be an element of playing devils advocate here, since I have friends who are librarians, and I love the concept. However, we keep being told that cuts must be made, and I would rather we found other ways of borrowing books than trying to find other ways to stop depressed people being left all alone to finish themselves off. And in the same way as live TV broadcasts will probably go the way of the dodo, so will the printed word, and if not the printed word, then certainly the big, beautiful cathedrals to it that we have built for the purposes of never having the thing you wanted to read in at the moment (but I can order it for you dear, 2 weeks tops).
I have not had access to a library since I moved out to the sticks 11 years ago. We have a library bus that comes by on a Friday, but I’m at work then and can’t use it. This doesn’t bother me as I have been using the charity shop/car boot sale merry-go-round book reading method instead, which does a bit of good at the same time, and generates money for good causes, while also ensuring I always read the latest must-read book club type books a year or so after everyone else, and for only 50p.
When I was a kid though, I went to the local library every week, grabbed a huge pile of Doctor Who novelisations, rapaciously read them, and eventually got a gold book track badge for my troubles. And while I was doing my A levels I borrowed many piles of weighty textbooks that I couldn’t possibly have afforded to buy in order to plagiarise them for my extended essays (which I got As for by the way, no internet to check if I had cheated back then, it works both ways). So I do appreciate their uses.
But now it is different, we have e-readers and the internet, I can read anything that is out of copyright for absolutely nothing (thank you Project Gutenberg) and while I could not plagiarise it as blatantly anymore, I could find all the source material I could ever need at the click of a button. And it wouldn’t just be those books on the subject that my favourite head librarian in Bideford had chosen to put in there (Hi Rose, your books got me those As, thanks, good choices) I now have access to everything ever written, which is a little daunting, but equally brilliant.
So in the same way as public bathhouses were made obsolete by all of us having plumbing and soap in our own homes, the availability of information and books to all and sundry that the internet has set free has probably made libraries as we know them obsolete. I shall mourn them, as an integral part of my late twentieth century youth, but like those stove-pipe hatted philanthropists who set them up, I think their work is done. Maybe we can re-purpose the buildings as community centres instead?
Please tell me I’m wrong.