Newport Beach Public Library in California is planning to close one of its branches and will replace it by adding a computer area to a planned community center. This new electronic space will feature computers and access to eBooks while allowing patrons to order print books from other branches (like the interlibrary loan system already in place).
I'm of two minds regarding this issue. And really, it's indicative of the transition we're seeing in the publishing and distribution of books right now.
The part of me that embraces the digital book movement thinks this is a splendid idea. It's refreshing to see a community adapting to changing technology. But the part of me that is still nostalgic for the "old days", when I first discovered the joys of reading in the basement of my hometown's old library, screams at the notion.
I think the reason I'm squeamish about this is because kids need libraries. Not every child is able to jump onto a computer or use an eReader to explore new books. The appeal of the library is that kids can go there for free, discover new books, and explore the wonder that is reading. I know that not every child WILL do this, but the opportunity should always be there.
When you take away the entire concept of The Library and simply put up a handful of computers at a place that is decidedly not The Library, I think you'll see an even greater decline in literacy. Kids will forego the exploration for knowledge and opt for something else. Also, it's been my experience that libraries are rarely up to par with their implementation of technology; I can't count the times I've been to a library and seen people just waiting to use a computer. So, as the article suggests, when a computer is basically the only thing available, and those computers are always full, people will stop waiting.
I would much rather see a building that is dedicated entirely to reading; I'm thinking of perhaps a new kind of library that is more tech-inspired with a smaller collection of books coupled with a more modern setting. An amalgamation of the coffee house, internet bar, and limited archive might be the answer.
Communities need to find a way to redefine the notion of The Library in terms of what it has to offer and how it is arranged. I definitely don't think it's time to start knocking down the buildings to make parks or parking lots.
Then again, I'm no expert; I'm just the Noob.