The death of the library?

Posted: November 1, 2010 in Books and their issues
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Steacie Science and Engineering Library at Yor...

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An interesting discussion i was part of today was that of the future of the library and how we can improve them to keep them going.

It would seem that the average local library is only used by children and the elderly, which in many cases i have seen is true. The sad thing is that people just arent interested in the library anymore, what with cheap books being so readily available or people just arent reading as much as they used to these days. See thebookseller.com article on library usage for more information.

When i was little, i spent hours in the library, and always took the full allowance of books out (maximum of 3 books, i believe) each time, and the majority of the time i finished at least 1 of them by the end of that same day ( not bragging but i was a fast reader!). I loved reading and i was reading at a higher level than the other kids in my school year, so i read my way through the school’s books and then the libraries books until there wasnt much left!

Thinking in terms of money, there is no way that me or my parents could have afforded to buy books at the rate i got through them!

Sadly, as i got older there was a poor choice of books for older readers and therefore i moved onto buying books with the endless supply of book tokens i used to get for birthdays and Christmases and spent the same amount of time browsing bookshops instead of libraries.

It was only once i got to university that i really started to use libraries again, mainly because their library was so well-stocked with all the books i needed for my course. I spent a fair amount of time in the library, using their meeting areas to discuss group work, their computers to look at ebooks, and enjoying the traditional browsing by walking up and down the book aisles.

University libraries seem a much more sociable place to hang out than the local libraries, which need to address the age-old problem of seeming like places where you can’t meet and talk about things and are full of dusty old books.

Some libraries try to encourage people to use them by adding computers for internet access (aimed at those without a computer at home), and holding events like talks by local authors and so on.

Of course, they could be doing so much more. An overhaul of the layout of libraries is needed, to make them a more sociable place to visit and hang out in, maybe by adding zones with comfy seats where people can read quietly or where they can talk in groups in a relaxed way. Local groups could have their meetings in the library, maybe a book club could be set up, catering for a mixed age group, or even just for those of a certain age, like young people.

Parents may encourage their children to use the library and libraries do cater fairly well for children, but the parents need attention in the library too, if they are to spend a fair amount of time there with their children and not get bored. A section dedicated to parents should cater for all reading tastes, whether it is adult fiction, non-fiction, newspapers or computers with internet access. Libraries could also have drinks and snacks vending machines to make the visit a more relaxing and comfortable experience, as well as lengthening the amount of time spent there.

I personally think most libraries need longer opening hours, as most adults work during the day and if they chose to visit the library during the day then they would be limited on time there if libraries close at 5pm. If they were opened until 9pm then they could comfortably spend more time there without worrying about being sent away.

Of course, everyone has their own opinions, i just think these changes could help libraries attract more people.

With regards to the ever-growing industry of Ebooks, this is having a big impact on libraries as well as the publishing world, as in recent news the subject of Ebook lending has caused quite a headache for many people. Libraries lend print books so why not lend Ebooks? Academic libraries do lend Ebooks currently and have done for a while, although the technology is not as good as the new Ebooks. The problem is with needing to place geographical restrictions on Ebooks lent by libraries, as the system can be abused. (For more information see Restrictions on Ebook lending in libraries from the Bookseller website.)

However, if libraries manage to sort the Ebook problems they are having, then everyone could access free Ebooks easily, possibly ruining the market for publishers trying to sell Ebooks! You really could just go round in circles with the whole Ebook debate!

I hope this has been an interesting read for those of you who are interested in this sort of thing!

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