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Thursday, August 15, 2013

What would Ray Bradbury think?

When was the last time I went physically into a library? Every week, but then I am a tactile person and live two blocks from one. They have special collections and a certain feeling that cannot be obtained anywhere, at least easily. A place to contemplate, explore the book next to the one you are interested in on the shelf, just think and sort as you walk the shelves scanning related subjects or articles. And they have trained professional librarians.

Library means collection, which goes well beyond books. The loss of libraries would mean the loss of the art galleries, performing arts centers, meeting rooms, viewing room, expertise and other resources they bring, well beyond a collection of physical books.

Public libraries have value in our society. They provide all of what I listed above and more. They are a wall against creeping illiteracy, ignorance and the dumbing down of our overall society. Parents who do use libraries never bring their kids to the library. What strata of society do they come from? What will happen if this trend continues? I am with Ray Bradbury, who grew up practically living in the library. It opens the mind, imagination and intellect.

So, yes, traditional libraries hold great value to our society and its future.

As to virtual libraries, they have their place and their value is increasing. 
However consider these thoughts:

What if there is a war or natural disaster involving magnetic pulse and electronics stop working? Not science fiction as there are natural causes for such pulses and it is very much both a military weapon and a side impact of nuclear weaponry. Let's not forget what happened, as Google's top brass reminds us, when all knowledge was in one place, the Library at Alexandria. Fire and much of pre-Egyptian knowlege, art and science disappeared forever.
Access to virtual libraries required technology that cost money and takes service? What of the poor, or those who live in a society where a government or a corporation keeps people from having access to information?
Tactile paper and ink libraries can be hidden, transported, displayed and stored in homes or collections.

The building and its contents remind the community that it is a real flesh and blood community, with resources and identity. Often libraries hold local history, writing, art, culture and identity.

There is a physical feeling and pleasure to reading a tactile book. Its touch, smell, the reality that others have read it, the wear and tears that add character and value.

Virtual has its place, but we need both buildings and on-line in the Ethernet.
Besides the best place for those who do not have funds, or those whose technology is aging, or those who just want to be away from home, school or work, to access what is in the ether-world is at their local or campus library.

Art Lynch

first published 9-3-09

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