Libraries have been part of society for a long time, but are they under threat from the internet? Are libraries living on borrowed time?
In Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch concerns about funding of libraries is a political issue. In Tauranga, the mobile library has been scrapped.
If we can find most things on the internet, why do we still need libraries? If you want to read something, you can download it onto an e-reader, or an iPad or onto a computer screen or print it out. Everything you need is available in your own home or school. If you want to look up facts or information, read the news or check the sports results then the internet is perfect. The internet holds more information than any library could. In fact, it’s a giant free library!
You’re right, kind of, but hang on…! Libraries are free too. They are, mostly, paid for by local councils from taxes which means that you can borrow from an enormous range of books without having to pay. Libraries are staffed by very experienced and knowledgeable people who can help you to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Google is compiling a digital archive of books and manuscripts from many different periods in history, and other organisations are doing the same. This is a brilliant idea as it enables documents to be read by many different people (at the same time) without damaging the originals. The original books and manuscripts are often delicate and old. But, this shouldn’t and doesn’t replace your school or local library.
The internet and libraries do completely different things. It’s all very well using the internet to help with your homework, but where do you look first? A book is (usually) written by an expert, but with the internet you can never quite be sure who or why something has been written; it’s often tricky to work out if facts and information are accurate. It’s always best to check things in a couple of books too – and where do you get the books from? The internet is not instead of the library, it’s as well as…
Libraries are an important part of any society. It would be a huge shame to see them go as more of us go online.
Article written by Ben Egerton
[colored_box color=”green”]This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry
amongst your students:[/colored_box]
[colored_box color=”yellow”]Critical Thinking Challenges:
1. Why do you think that in ancient times libraries were often the first buildings to be looted or burned?
2. How important are libraries in the age of internet?
[colored_box color=”green”]Practical Tasks:
1. Interview your librarian at school (if you have one; if not, talk to teachers about the library or visit your local library). Ask him or her questions about the library and the internet and how one works alongside the other. Work out a way to communicate what you’ve found out to your classmates and teacher.
2. Take action over libraries! Some suggestions: survey your class or school about library use; run a promotion to get more children using your school library; talk to your local library about getting more people to use it; schedule a meeting with your school principal to talk about the library; suggest having an internet-free week at school (maybe as a fundraiser for your school library)…