Many people seem to believe that the digital age is about to render libraries and all of those hard copy books on the bookshelves useless. Yes, it is true that you can discover almost anything you could imagine from the internet...the key word in that sentence is "almost." As a book lover, I am here to remind everyone that there are still things that libraries and librarians can offer for us that typing a few things into Google on our smartphones and laptops cannot.
1. Libraries offer much more than many people even realize
Libraries are no longer just about walking in and checking out a book and being on your way. Libraries also offer things like computer and internet access, access to printers and fax machines, audiobooks, DVDs, and some even offer computer classes and special activities for children to get them more involved in reading.
2. Libraries are FREE
This is one instance where the word "free" actually means free as long as you return whatever you borrow on time and in good condition. Yes, you can go online and purchase whatever book you are looking for, but why do that when you can borrow and read it for free? All of those things I just mentioned above are offered to anyone who chooses to walk in those doors. This can be incredibly helpful for people with a limited income who may not have access to these things at home. It doesn't matter who you are or what your financial situation is. As soon as you walk into a library, you are treated the same as everyone else and have the same opportunities as everyone else.
3. Finding books on a shelf
Yes, I do own a Kindle Fire, and yes, I do enjoy reading on it...but I still enjoy reading hard copies of books and sometimes I actually prefer it. There is something to be said for holding an actual book in your hand. Plus, when you go to a library and search for a specific book on a shelf, you never know what else you might actually find. You could find the book you were searching for, and also find a book that looks even more interesting to you right next to it. I have had this experience numerous times, especially when looking for research material for papers I have had to write for classes. You may not even realize what you are looking for until it is right in front of your face. There is no way to have that same experience online.
4. Librarians are extremely helpful
Can't find something you're looking for? I bet your librarian can find it for you in a heartbeat. Have a question? I bet your librarian either has the answer or will go out of their way to find the answer for you. They are there to help you, all you have to do is ask.
5. Libraries are quiet
Libraries provide a space with limited distractions for anyone who needs it. Whether you want a quiet place to read, somewhere to write your 10-page research paper that is due tomorrow, or even just want a quiet and friendly place to disconnect from the craziness of the outside world for a while, the library is there for your convenience.
6. How can you be sure what you are reading online is true?
It is true, the internet can provide you with information on basically anything you want to know...but the internet is also full of fake articles and news sites. A simple search on Google or Bing can bring up multiple different responses for the same subject. Some of these are written by professionals who actually know what they are talking about, but some are also written by people who may not know as much about what they are talking about and are just voicing their personal opinions. It can often be hard to differentiate who is who. I myself have experienced how extremely difficult this can be if you are researching for a school project or a paper you have to turn in for a grade. How do you know that all of this information is actually true? If you are looking for reliable information, a library is probably your best bet. In a library, you will find reference and non-fiction sections which contain factual information that is written, edited, and published by professionals in that specific field of study.
I am not saying that the internet is a bad thing. I use the internet every day of my life, I am using it to write this article right now. But there are many things that libraries can provide for us that we can't get anywhere else. Also, we tend to forget that not everyone has a computer or a laptop or a smartphone. Many people don't have access to these things we sometimes take for granted. A library allows people who don't have these things to utilize them just like everyone else. So no, libraries are not "unnecessary" or "unimportant" - if anything, they are the exact opposite.