Will Public Libraries Become Extinct?

It had been awhile since I was in my local library and I was surprised to learn they had computers for the kids and adults to use with different programming for each, VCR’s and DVD’s they loaned out. I was happy to learn I could plug in my computer and hang around downtown until my doctor’s appointment. It was a nice place to hang around until I could catch the transit bus home. I only wish they could sell bus tickets so I didn’t have to buy them at city hall during business hours; the library stayed open later so it is more convenient. They even had a fireplace that I could sit beside to warm up. If its been awhile since you’ve been in the library, I recommend you check them out to see what is new. Click here to learn more or read an excerpt below to fully appreciate what they offer these days.


As someone who has spent a fair amount of time analyzing business disruption, I think it’s pretty clear that libraries are eventually going to fade away.

To be clear, I agree that libraries may stick around longer than the underlying consumer behavior supporting them. Why? Because funding libraries is a political, not an economic decision. Nevertheless, I believe strongly that public libraries will turn into ghost towns in five to fifteen years, at which point it will become very difficult to justify funding them and keeping them open.

Most libraries now lend e-books, music, and other media as well. But the real reason libraries will disappear is that people *perceive* them as only or mostly lending books. Libraries are and have been on the front lines of technology forever, but people persist in thinking of them as old-fashioned. This has been true since the early 1900s, by the way. Henry Dana Gibson, one of the early heads of the American Library Assoc. wrote about it to the association.

The bottom line is people are very, very bad at learning new things and they haven’t been in the library since school, so they perceive it as being the same as it was then. So when tax time comes, they bitch that libraries are old-fashioned and don’t want to support them.

Forget that libraries provide e-readers to people who can’t afford them, lend e-books, art, music, teach classes, do podcasts,  provided database access and training, function as employment centers when the state has cut the funding for those. They provide media services for homebound, blind, disabled, safe places for children to go, collect graphic novels to get teens to read, provide classes on new technology, and spaces for community meetings. They have Twitter and Youtube and Facebookpages – and they talk to you there.

The list goes on and on. But if you don’t use your library, you’ll never know those things. And you’ll tell yourself that libraries are exactly the way they were when you were six, then feel slightly bad when you vote them off the town budget.

Libraries will die, because they were killed by people who never used them.

Visit your local library – walk in or visit online. Ask them what they do, then be prepared to be very, very impressed.


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