NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 9, 2013

Are libraries really still important?

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately at the Salisbury Public Library. I often like to say that I grew up there — as far back as I can remember, my mom brought me to the library. If I mention this fact at the library, Terry the director will usually correct me and say I was in fact born at the library.

We’re currently in the process of trying to get approval for a new building. The library is tiny, and has been out of space for over 30 years now. A previous attempt at expanding in 1984 never made it to

fruition, and it’s been run to its limits since. If you’re from Salisbury and a registered voter, I’d definitely encourage you to vote “Yes” for the library, but that’s not what this post is about necessarily.

As part of the campaign, we’ve had to address a lot of questions about our library in particular, but also about libraries in general. The one that keeps coming up is whether libraries still have a place in our society.

I understand where this question comes from; I’ve worked in web tech and I spend 10-plus hours a day in front of a computer. The argument goes that as everything is becoming digital, the need for libraries is diminishing and will eventually go the way of the dinosaur. Quite simply, that isn’t true. And I’ll explain why, in two words.

Information society.

We live in an information society. Our economy is no longer driven by manufacturing and manual labor (although they are still essential elements to a stable economy) but rather by knowledge and information. Each year more jobs and more commerce are created by the flow of information, and this all requires education. Libraries are an integral part of education.

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