I must admit I am a bit surprised, if not shocked, to see a discussion on
the value of libraries in the ARSCList, of all places. Come on people! We
are talking about the repositories of human knowledge!! We're talkin'
Alexandria, Cordoba, Trinity College, so on and so forth! Possibly one of
the greatest ideas of humankind, and an amazing gift to all of us. (I am
convinced that if someone came up with this idea today in the Western
World, it would never happen. Just imagine the publishers and record
companies: "Wait a minute. You are going to let people borrow this stuff
for free? Are you out of your mind????") Libraries are wonderfully
anachronistic, but also timeless. And while I applaud the idea of
digitising materials and making them available on the web, it cannot be a
library's primary function. Such a position I find between naive and
arrogant, assuming that computers, or something that can read computer
files, will be around forever. Maybe they will be, maybe they won't. One
thing we know for sure: Libraries have been around for hundreds and
hundreds of years, they seem to work, and have changed the course of
knowledge's history several times, by revealing previous knowledge that was
not popular at the time, but that some inquisitive soul picked up (the
I live in Queens, NY, whose public library system claims to have the
highest usage in the world, and I love to see people of all creeds,
colours, and ages populate its library branches. Engaging in one of the
most wonderful of human endeavours: the sharing of knowledge. For free.
There is only so much digitising one can do. Only the "useful" stuff will
be put up on the web. What you end up is with a generic MacLibrary of
knowledge, Google or not.
Keep the buildings open!!!