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Libraries should be a place for books

At the SIIA Content Summit in New York in January, I wrote down a phrase, something one of the speakers said. “Physical libraries are shutting down right and left.”

I imagine he thought this was true–or must be true. But libraries are not shutting down right and left. More and more information is online, and that does affect libraries. Some people think libraries should be shutting down right and left, and maybe that speaker, as an online information provider, thought they should. But what I’d be willing to bet is that he personally hadn’t stepped inside a library since college. He didn’t have a clue that across the United States libraries are thriving, finding new roles and making themselves, anew, the centers of their communities.

There was an interesting comment on the Good Library Blog, which we sponsor for the U.K., from an American reader. She wrote sadly that, “being just a library in the old-fashioned sense of the word isn’t enough.” That is, a place to read or study, to look up information or pick out leisure reading. The renovations underway at our own town’s Mason Library (the beautiful building shown on all our Libraries We Love materials) are not going to increase the stack space, but will add rooms for meetings. As someone who believes that literacy is important to democracy and that books are an endless source of pleasure, I’d love to see more emphasis placed on books. But passionate readers tend to be quiet people. We need more activist readers, and librarians and booksellers, too, engaged in making sure libraries remain a place for books.

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