Being in the middle of 2018, we're living in the age many would dub "the future." The past decade, technology has changed the way we study, conduct research, keep up with the news, write, and read. While the convenience and innovation of technology has been largely positive, it's caused us to question the relevance of a good old-fashioned public library. And while this is a valid quandary, our access to technology is also often a matter of privilege. After all, digital reading and media sources are not as universal as a physical library space. In any case, it's clear that the presence of libraries is vital and irreplaceable, regardless of society's increase in technology and financial privilege.
Libraries are the ideal option for low-income readers.
Although the public book-lending cornucopias we call libraries are relatively universal, they sometimes seem to be hidden in plain sight. Likely, this can be accredited to the fact that many modern consumers have the financial means to purchase new books and E-readers. As satisfying as it can be to splurge on a new book at Barnes and Noble from time to time, this luxury is not available to everyone. And it is a luxury-- new paperback books are seldom under $15.00, and hardcover books often cost at least $30.00. E-readers, on the other hand, can cost up to $200, and the tablets many of us use to read cost many times more. And while many people could afford this, many others (particularly avid readers) understandably couldn't. Those who see libraries as irrelevant forget that low income families and individuals rely on libraries to borrow books for school, for research, or for the unadulterated enjoyment of a novel.
Libraries provide access to new media.
Beyond traditional carbon-based books, libraries house a plethora of audio books, digital resources, and movies for anyone to enjoy. Although subscriptions to audio book apps, digital news media, and video streaming are widely used, some of us may find that we either can't afford all of these subscriptions or merely won't use them enough for what they cost. In any case, free digital sources are always a viable option for anyone who may need them, whether to substitute or to just supplement the services at our fingertips. Aside from these digital resources, most public libraries are equipped with computers that patrons can use to surf the internet or create documents. If an unemployed individual needs a computer to fill out online applications or draft a resume, the library is always available to them.
Libraries host a wide array of free community events.
Aside from hosting book clubs and book signings for various ages, libraries host workshops across topics, from genealogy, to robotics, to screenwriting. These can provide free fun for all ages and help build a stronger sense of community, particularly for children and young adults. Academically, children can benefit from reading and math clubs, and storytime-style reading events are available for children as young as newborns. For adults, libraries often host free workshops in topics like business and financial literacy. Typically, bilingual workshops are available in public libraries for non-native English speakers, and English lessons and seminars are not uncommon either.
Libraries are an inclusive public space.
With very few exceptions, most public spaces won't allow individuals to sit down, read, work, or use the restroom in their facilities without making a purchase. Since libraries are for everyone, anyone can come and go as they please without being kicked to the curb. This is especially important for people who may not have anywhere else to go, such as the homeless or children from neglectful homes.
Utilizing the library motivates us to keep reading.
For those of us who wish for more time to read, the pending due date of a library book is key to holding us accountable and pacing ourselves as readers. Even if you need to use a renewal, the presence of any deadline will motivate you to finish your book. Visiting the library to return and check out books regularly makes the process of finishing books quick, natural, and routine in a way that digital platforms of reading don't provide. In a world dominated by visual entertainment and social media, it's more important than ever to prioritize basic literacy and keep reading.
The library is timeless.
Overall, libraries remain one of the most inclusive and rich public learning spaces. Although the idea of a library is, in itself, rather ancient, libraries have a way of holding true to their original purpose while evolving and acclimating to our culture. Regardless of our technological advances, the accessibility and value of these spaces is truly timeless.