Convenience vs. Innovation: The Case for Public Libraries
A couple of days ago I was driving with a friend when we passed one of the three local libraries in Livonia, my dreary hometown suburb. I commented that I hadn’t been there in a while, which he suggested I go soon because it was to be shut down in a few months. Apparently the city, like most local governments nowadays, simply did not possess the funds for three branches. Downsizing to only one. A nerve struck in those brief moments, impending closure on my mind long after dropping off Tyler. Why the libraries? Surely budget cuts were essential to that decision, but they couldn’t be the only factor. People still read books, rent movies and video games. The need for libraries still exists, yet their days feel recklessly numbered. Perhaps another overlooked factor lies within the shifting values our culture maintains as consumers, how technological innovation has replaced American collectivism.
Think hard: what was the last thing you checked out from a library? Mine was The Sirens of Titan and an Anthony Bourdain book, but with today’s libraries, the second season of The Sopranos or the new Katy Perry album are also probable answers. Since the 1990’s, libraries prove little competition for American attentions against the Internet. Accessible at people’s fingertips, information does not necessitate libraries anymore, let alone books themselves. Libraries could either adapt or die, explaining why my local Civic Center’s DVD, gaming, comic book, and magazine selection rivals its bound counterpart. Half the stacks withhold the literary greats, half is a superstore entertainment aisle. Libraries nowadays can compete with the draw of “free” the Internet presents, especially considering any material is available with a signature and a plastic card. Yet these public institutions, a fabric woven into our society by Benjamin Franklin, will likely be phased out within my lifetime.