Over the years of my degree, I saw the number of computers in the library increase substantially, while books were shipped away. Less popular and obscure books were moved to boxes; computers took up the space they left. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, all too familiar across the country.
As people start obtaining literature and reading in different ways, libraries have to change. These changes are not only necessary, but they are making much of the knowledge in books more accessible to everyone.
Some purists might say a screen could never take the place of the paper, bound in leather, smelling of wisdom.
But many books, especially older ones, are available online for free to read, and there are no late fees to worry about. Also, wireless and digital reading devices are becoming more popular, like the Amazon Kindle, which allows people to read from a screen and buy and download books more cheaply than in paper form. With these kinds of advances, people will be more willing to forfeit the feeling of a book in hand to keep nickels and dimes in hand instead.
In order to keep up, libraries will again need to shift and change with the times.
Look at what some libraries in the United States are doing with online book clubs, for example. They’re luring readers into their shelves, one five-minute snippet at a time, with services like DearReader.com. With this particular online book club service, cardholders sign up to have an e-mail sent everyday Monday through Friday with a small reading from a book. Readers are sent up to three chapters over the course of a week, after which point they, theoretically, want to take the book out of their own library to finish it.
This is the kind of thing that libraries need to do – reach out to their readers in technologically innovative ways. These institutions need to entice people through their doors in order to remain as important as they are, and continue to be a good option for not only inexpensive literature, but even the books that might be obscure or unpopular.