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Wednesday 5: The Future of Libraries and Books

August 10, 2011

Five interesting articles I have read recently, while I think about the future of libraries and books. We’re clearly on the verge of some kind of transition, and I find it fascinating. Possibly also terrifying. (“Death of the book” articles are popular lately and give me the worst cold sweats! Eeek!)

1. Libraries: The NHS of the Mind.

Score one for Scotland (where I will be, starting the end of this week!) From about a year ago, this is children’s author Michael Morpurgo’s excellent defense of libraries as community spaces. “It is really important that communities have places where they can do things together. Increasingly all these things seem to be disappearing – we are losing pubs like mad, church is not the focus it was and post offices are closing down. Libraries seem to be the most elemental and most important places that still exist for the community.”

2. The Printed Book Is Doomed: Here’s Why.

Writing for the Telegraph, Shane Richmond asserts the impending extinction of paper books. Children will grow up using e-readers, he posits.  “It’s convenience that is drawing people to ebooks and that is what will kill printed books. Or, if not kill them, reduce them to the same minority hobbyist status that vinyl records now occupy. ” Cue the cold sweats. Also, lingering questions about A) affording and accessing e-readers, and B) would you really give an expensive e-reader to a kid who’s prone to being covered in peanut butter or finger paint?

3. Are Public Libraries Obsolete? No, argues blogger Nukapai.

“Whether libraries should continue to exist has almost nothing to do with what format the information comes in. It has everything to do with free public access to well-curated, well-organised, unbiased information.” Via Hooray!

There’s a Digital Bookmobile in Ohio: how cool is that? I find this reassuring, because it combines digital books with community outreach and keeping some kind of community-space sense with a library, instead of everybody all reading on their isolated devices. I’m still thinking about the question it leaves unanswered–accessibility, both in terms of cost and in terms of functionally using an e-reader.


Reading Mark Prensky’s Programming is the New Literacy made me feel guilty about how basic my web design skills are.
“I believe the single skill that will, above all others, distinguish a literate person is programming literacy, the ability to make digital technology do whatever, within the possible one wants it to do — to bend digital technology to one’s needs, purposes, and will, just as in the present we bend words and images. Some call this skill human-machine interaction; some call it procedural literacy. Others just call it programming. “
I agree, but I also think that reading stories, and books (whatever form they take) remains an essential form of the cultural literacy that will make us good at being people.

For every book I read in 2011, I’m donating $1 to the New York Public Library.

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