An occasionally heard statement that baffles me is that we no longer need public libraries. I have heard and seen this comment in print for about twenty-five years now. The proponents of the “imminent demise of libraries” theory are often self-identified technology futurists. Their usual rationale is that everything is available on the internet and therefore, all of our information needs can be met there. (They probably read this on the internet, and as we all know from the TV commercial, “you can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true.”)
I suspect that if this were true then there would be evidence of a decline in the use of libraries, but the exact opposite is true. Public library use has grown steadily both here in Seekonk and across the nation. The irony is that their argument makes sense only if you start from an old-fashioned notion that public libraries exist primarily to provide information in a physical form such as a book, journal or magazine. Besides those materials however, your public library also offers a wide array of services, both in person and via the internet. Many of them, such as classes, programs, volunteer opportunities and free entertainment like concerts and movies are featured elsewhere in this newsletter. In addition, the library provides high speed access to the internet and offers training in the use and adoption of continually evolving technology. The futurists seldom mention these services.
I suspect that these services go unrecognized because these people have not visited a public library recently. Their notion of public library service is, ironically, trapped in the past. Perhaps the next time you hear someone tell you that you don’t need your public library, you can politely inquire about the last time the speaker visited a library. And if they haven’t, please extend our invitation to come and find out what is really being offered.