Are Public Libraries Dying or Thriving?

by The British Asian Blog

Are Public Libraries dying or thriving – By The British Asian Blog

There are moments in life when issues that you are most concerned about, that are occupying your thinking time suddenly come out into the open in the news, as if the news medium tapped into your mind and decided to publish your deep concerns for the wider community to see.  Such moment happened to me last Thursday and Friday.

While commuting into work, I picked up this thing you get for free in the railway station called ‘Metro’, which I make a point of never reading.  I don’t know what it was but my instinct took me to a news article which addressed an issue.  This was the exact same issue I had been debating silently in my mind for over a week.  You can find the same article here.

If you have time I do suggest you read the articles here and here, you will then understand my concern relating to Libraries.  The big question for me is “Are Public libraries in the UK dying or are they Thriving?”  Allow me to highlight some of my concerns, my views and opinion below:

Libraries have been a big part of my life and I’m sure going forward they will continue to be.  For me a library is a magical place, a place where knowledge of the world is contained for everyone to access.  It a place where you can break away from daily life distractions and open a new phase of life, possibilities and endless dreams and visions.  A library for me is the place which contributes to your character and shapes your personality of who you are and what you’re going to become.  I may write another blog post about how important libraries have been in my life.  But for the sake of my concerns I’ll limit what I write.

Discussion:

My opinion on this issue is that libraries are being used less by the public.  This is evident in at least in my own city, where once a thriving 8 floor central library has over the years shrunk to just 2.5 floors.  This I believe is linked to two main reasons:

1. People now have PC’s with Internet access in their homes, information is available at their finger tips and the information is almost endlessly available via the Internet.

2.  With the recent development of technology, we as people are using our handheld devices more and more for everything including reading.  Technology has therefore been developed to provide us with information digitally no matter where we are.  iPads, tablets, E-readers and Kindle devices have become a big hit with general public.

It’s common to see these e-readers or kindle devices more commonly while commuting to and from work; books will slowly fade away as people choose digital books over printed material.  The impact is obvious as less and less people will use their local library.

What makes matters even worse is the current economic situation, with the UK heading towards a double-dip recession funding for libraries is being cut on a massive scale, resulting in some small libraries closing, big ones having to reduce their operations and scale down on their facilities.  Does this mean Libraries are dying?

Although I believe libraries are not the same as they once were.  I am also optimistic that libraries will evolve and survive these turbulent times.

It can therefore be argued that precisely because the financial situation for everyone has changed for the worse by the current economic crisis that people and families have less money to spend.  People who once purchased a book online will now have a less expensive option in simply borrowing the book for free from their local library.

For this reason, Libraries are being used more and more, more so now than before the credit crisis.  Although its true people don’t take books out as often (if you compare to last 30 years or so) instead poorer families still rely on the library as their main source of information and resources:  PC, Internet Access, News papers, travelling guides are very popular.  What’s more is that libraries have evolved to accommodate community activities, hosting meetings and conferences, running charity events and become a hub for youth services.

The one real threat to books is ebooks.  There is always going to be a debate about piracy and security of ebooks but some public Libraries have embraced this form of reading material.  Evidence suggests some libraries have actually started to loan out ebooks to people with compatible devices.  For this they need to visit their library.  The loan time is the same as borrowing a book, and once your loan times expires the device deletes the ebook.

I’d like to read your thoughts on this matter.  To make people opinions count as statistics I have added a Poll below asking the question:  “Are Public libraries in the UK Dying or Thriving?”

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