When I was young I read 1 or 2 books a week, every week, for about 4 years. My parents couldn't have afforded that many books. I could I suppose have dug around in whatever some charity shop had to offer, but I don't think I would have got such a rounded reading education.
My country gave one laptop to every schoolchild, but I wish they'd consider giving out e-book readers instead (or in addition to).
With the Gutenberg project and other resources, an enterprising child with the reading bug should have plenty to chew on :) . OTOH, as a child I read stuff due to being book-deprived which I probably wouldn't have read if I had had access to other options (encyclopaedias from cover to cover, astronomy and physics books, etc..)
I met a lot of new friends there, discovered a whole bunch of books and authors, learned a lot about games and computers and had a great time. The local authority closed it down after 5 years because it was unprofitable and turned it into office space.
There's no way that the internet has the same possibility of offering a social/learning/entertainment centre. This community-centre/lending-centre/advice-centre model is the perfect thing for libraries to transition towards - but it requires a lot of creativity from local authorities.
Police and fire departments don't get shut down because their EPS was well below guidance, and schools aren't closed because they don't have a clear revenue picture for the next quarter. Congress has been going for over two hundred years and they've never once been in the black.
Yet libraries, parks, and public transit should all be 'profitable'? I'm confused.
Let's put aside, just for a moment, the usefulness of libraries for people, who don't otherwise have the means, to get on the internet. Does a library really provide a service that the Internet can't better fulfill? I believe that the internet is a better medium to distribute music, newspapers and magazines, either commercially or as a social service. Why should books be any different?
I truly believe that the death of libraries can be the result of positive things. The internet can make more books more easily available to more people. It can also do so more cheaply. We aren't there yet - but I don't see it being a technical limitation at this point. It's unfortunate that people will lose their jobs, but they aren't the first, nor the last, victims of technological advancement.
Now, you still need to solve the problem of giving people access to the internet. But surely, if we focus on solving this one problem, we can do so in a more cost effective, and potentially better, way. If the main appeal of libraries is that they have free access to the Internet, then I'm not sure that's a strong argument in favor of libraries (as we know them).
The internet won't/can't replace everything a library does. Like providing a physical space, or services for elderly (which are often not connected).
That's my point, that perhaps they should focus on the areas where they truly serve a distinct (and valuable) service. Not only might they be more successful by focusing on a narrow set of services, but they might become more affordable to run.
If you expect the average citizen to do all those things online it may be reasonable, maybe for a generation, to replace at least some of the gone libraries by Internet literacy centers.
Furthermore, many documents and resources aren't digitized and aren't on any kind of networked computer or database, so how exactly is someone supposed to access these materials and in a timely fashion? Librarians specialize in knowing how to find and navigate those materials and sources.
Which is why you can, you know, get on the internet at the libarary.
Books are quite different from movies and other forms of media. They require concentration and imagination to digest. Think about it as an exercise, if nothing else.
I don't have problems with the latter. When it comes to concentration - I'm easily distracted. For this reason most movies, particularly action flicks, bore me (exception: thrillers). But when I'm reading a book, I'm by definition concentrated on it.
While I read a lot of fiction, books as a form are just better at providing exhaustive information on a given topic. There are sites like Project Gutenberg, but until a decent and inexpensive eReader is available, they are no substitute.
Finally, libraries are a place where you can meet interesting people, often introverts like me. In my country 12% read more than 7 books a year. If I meet someone in a library, it's most likely an unusual person.
So I sympathize, but believe that we can make libraries unnecessary.
Subsidized or free municipal internet connectivity, already seen in some communities, coupled with a greater commitment to making worthwhile material available online, has the potential to do more good.
Instead of 215,000 copies of a reference book spread throughout the nations libraries, buyout the rights to it or work out an arrangement to make it available online.
Instead of cutting services like data.gov, expand upon them.
As to community connectedness and educating our children, focus on making our schools better.
Libraries are, and have been a grand institution. But times change, and there are better ways.
On Internet, you cannot go to an official library and have access to all the books and download what you want for a yearly subscription of 5-7 EUR (that was the price in the 80-90 nineties in Europe). The only similar service is with the "Library Genesis" but it's not really considered to be an official library... I'm sad because it excludes some future innovator to access knowledge easy and cheaply.
There's another thing to like about libraries: information is nicely organized, consistently of rather high quality (no lolcats). Librarians are educated people, you go to an university (for example) to become one. When you go to a library, you know you won't find much crap. It's the human-organized information at its finest.
The claim that this is a matter of mere budget pressure rather than budget priorities smacks of a vicious and improbable lie.
States which can still afford (at the minimum) massive prison systems allow this to happen.
If all tax dollars were collected by the municipalities and then a portion of that passed up to state and federal budgets (instead of the municipalities getting very little directly and needing to request money back from state and federal budgets) would the same situation have emerged?
The plans were created about 5-6 years back and the project was put put on hold for 3 years. Living across the street from the site, pretty much everyone in my neighborhood thought it was going to be scrapped. But some big donors stepped in to help close the funding shortfall.
It would be sad because they are (or used to be) a hub of knowledge and information, and that is why they are valuable.