Saturday, February 03, 2007

Are books and libraries obsolete?

In there is a link to an interesting feature predicting the loss if libraries and books go the way of the dinosaurs. Since many of us are so dependent on the internet for information, we might think libraries and the books that are found in them will be obsolete. The feature writer lists 33 reasons why the library will remain.

The 33 reasons appeal to practicality and barely to pleasure. But as early as 1946, Nobel Literature laureate John Steinbeck bravely predicted that the book would prevail. In his essay "Some Random and Randy Thought about Books", Steinbeck lists down the pleasurable reasons why we like books. The erotic analogy was obvious, for the writer actually bares him/herself in his book and the reader has to uncover the writer who exists in the pages through the characters. Perhaps that is why the aphorism "books are alive" is apt. And this is the reason why when someone burns a book, it is like killing a person. Book burning is abhorrent in a literate society.

Steinbeck was concerned over the rise of a new medium at the time, television. Some scholars predicted that TV would replace all printed literature. But they were wrong, TV couldn't do without the printed TV guide! So 60 or more years after TV was invented we still have books.

Now books have to compete with the internet. The internet is a good thing but much of the information we have here are useless. In a library we can ask librarians for advice on how to get the most useful information. This is the gist of the feature article I just wrote about.

Useful information in the web comes at a price. What pisses off the graduate student and academic are academic papers that can be downloadable for a "pay per view" price. If one is enrolled in a university, the library fee one pays covers this service. Of course if one is employed by the university, the benefits are even bigger. Alums may continue to enjoy some of library privilages for a small fee or better yet through a library development endownment. :)

Today libraries resemble trendy malls for information. The state university library I am now writing this post has a cafe, communications center, a lounge, art gallery and conference and convention facilities. The natural science museum is just across the courtyard.

Libraries can evolve with society. It's employees can have a make-over. The idea of books remain the same. Books keep the memory of society.

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