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Are Libraries Outdated?

Not too long ago, my local newspaper ran an article about funding for libraries. It obviously wasn't of top importance to either the newspaper or its readers, as it was relegated to the local news section in lieu of the coveted front page, but it did happen to be one of the most insightful features I have read from the paper. To the politicians and officials, their fight is solely about how much taxpayer money they should feed into public libraries, but to the general public, especially those of us who are avid readers and writers, the question is really this: in this digital day and age, are libraries obsolete?

Personally, I love libraries. Or perhaps, more accurately, I love the theory of libraries. I haven't actually been to or used a library in months. Why would I need to? There's iBooks, Kindle, Nook, and much more; all with their own extensive library of ebooks, and all that can be accessed right from my own home. I no longer need to drag myself to a physical library and endure screaming children as I browse the stacks and shelves in hopes of finding a good book. Instead, I can go to Goodreads.com and look at a number of lists of books that would interest me, all while getting handy feedback from previous readers. Or, if I'm looking for reading material that's a bit lighter, I can go to Wattpad and choose from millions of fun, purely enjoyable stories of every type--and for free as well. Libraries? Why would anyone need libraries?

The newspaper article that I read argued that we need libraries as a social gathering place, for lectures or cooking classes. But let's get real, if I want to hear a lecture, I'll download a podcast. If I need a cooking tutorial, I'll go straight to YouTube. The internet is my social gathering place. Google, Bing, and Yahoo are a man's best friend, and I'm being raised in the middle of Generation Techno. I can do everything you can do, and as long as I have my iPad, from the comfort of my own home as well. And if that's the only argument for a library's purpose, then we better lay down our weapons right now, because then libraries really are obsolete. But I'd like to present a new argument for why libraries should continue to stick around for a while: sanctity. Libraries are doing the important job of preserving the sanctity of writing. Wattpad's great, sure, and there are some talented and emerging writers taking up residence online, but never once have I read anything on online writing sites that would be good enough to be placed within my public library. In fact, thanks to sites like these without any screening of the content, I'm almost ready to believe that "and thn he said 'i love u to'" is fine literature. Would I ever find anything close to that at my library? Nuh-uh. Our dedicated libraries carefully screen every one of the hundreds of books to make sure they're a true example of fine writing. So, Jane Austen and, say, Stephen King? You got it.

Still, I'll probably spend more time arguing about why we need libraries than I'll ever actually spend at a library. Because, you know, I hear there's a company that's a Netflix, but for books. And that sounds pretty cool. I just wish my librarians were there to help me decide what to choose.



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