Libraries: are they soon to be a thing of the past?

I decided to write a post on whether libraries are soon to be a thing of the past due to the ever-growing expansion and convenience of large supermarkets (e.g. Tesco) who are now selling all the latest novels at a shockingly low price or Amazon, where you can download some eBooks for less than £1. I had a chat with some of my fellow book bloggers, authors and friends about what they thought on the topic and this is what we think.

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Talking strictly books, I never have the motivation to read my library books. More often than not, I’ll get 3 or 4 books out and they’ll sit on my window ledge for weeks until they have to be taken back. I find it much more satisfying buying a book that’s in mint condition, reading it and keeping it as my own. I noticed not too long ago, that Tesco stock all the latest books, the best of the best and I wanted to buy every single one of them! I don’t get that feeling with libraries – I always give up looking for something if it takes longer than 5 minutes (not sure whether that says more about me or libraries but judge for yourself!) and with how busy everybody is these days, I know very few people who actually have the time to visit a library. I also think the majority of people’s initial reaction to finding out about a book is ‘I’ll look on Amazon’. You can’t fault Amazon really. It’s so convenient and whenever I order a book from there it takes less than 2 days to arrive and you can purchase eBooks (decent eBooks!) for ridiculously low prices! Local authorities are also going to play a bit part in the closure of libraries as their funding is now going elsewhere. Dave Gammon, author of ‘Tidy Up On Your Way Out’ made a good point and said, “I think libraries in the physical building sense may well have had their day. With online access to pretty much any information we need and the possibility of online libraries (Amazon are already doing this) we have to question the need for them. I still feel sentimental about physical books. There is something tactile about the experience of perusing a shelf, selecting and buying a book but the same was true of vinyl records. I miss them but convenience wins the day in the technology era.” Blogger, Emily Thorpe said, “As an ex-librarian, I saw staff being replaced by self-service machines, and people go to use the internet rather than to get books!”

Saying all that, I do like libraries. It’s nice to be in a quiet place where everyone is there for the same reason and the libraries where I live host a huge range of activities e.g. pamper nights, craft days for kids, historical talks so they are good for the community. I spoke to my mum about this as she’s one of the very few people I know who makes regular trips to our local library, she said, “Libraries are an institution and it would be shame if they weren’t here. Not only are they great for browsing for books they’re also ideal for people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to computers and for people to meet each-other and form reading groups.” I agree that libraries are a great place to meet people. Our local library hosts a knitting/craft afternoon once and week and I can image it’s a nice way for particularly older people to get out the house and do something they enjoy at the same time. Sarah England, author of ‘Expected’ said, “My books are currently only available via amazon and the respective publishers’ sites – although this is changing fast and hopefully they will be in the shops by next year so at the moment it would not affect me as a writer. However, I really passionately believe in libraries to make reading accessible to all – and as a reader and writer I need access to them for research. There are other positive aspects too – such as a community based reading place – supermarkets are bargain basement profit driven areas where people might sling the odd paperback in with their shopping – but libraries are for reading and reading alone… so important to our society as a whole. They are also points for researching archives, and are developing digital options now too. So as a writer I am not big enough for it to affect me – but as a reader and researcher – I need them!!!”

Clare at ABookandTea said, “Unfortunately I think they’re on the way out, which is sad! Hopefully they keep them!” which I think sums it up perfectly. I think eventually, whether it be next year or 10 years down the line, technology and convenience will trump libraries and despite how sad that will be when the time comes and unfortunate for those who are going to lose their jobs, that’s just the way the world works. So for the mean time, support your local library and help their legacies live on.

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7 thoughts on “Libraries: are they soon to be a thing of the past?

  1. The Queens Public Library system in Queens, NYC has adapted to the times, with much better elcetronic services, including MP3 downloads, and online inventory.
    The physical structures are being renovated and technologically updated. Our libraries also offer a range of classes, including reading for immigrants.
    I hope our libraries last into the next millenium.

  2. I’m hoping they’re not. I still like going there when I’m not sure how reliable the information I find online is and want to use a book for research. Especially since a)Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone, b)Google sometimes brings up too many results and it can be a pain sorting through non-relevant results, and c)I don’t want to have to pay a lot of money for a book I’m going to use for research and then not need once that project is done, whatever it may be.

    Plus it is nice going there and not feeling like you have to buy something, because you can just sit there and read and it’s not a big deal if you don’t want to take anything home. I’ve never read a book in a bookstore that I wasn’t going to be, and I never will because for me they’re there to be found, looked at briefly (maybe read a few pages or a chapter or two at most), and then for you to decide to purchase or not.

    I will say though that it is discouraging the number of books that aren’t available in libraries (and bookstores as well), and how it can take a while for them to get in new releases. I wish there was a way to make libraries better/more readily stocked (if that’s the right word), and not so overlooked as a resource.

    • Great points. I agree with you about the number of books that aren’t available in a library, particularly new releases. I think people would probably use libraries more if there was more available to them. However, you can expect a library to stock every book in the world because then they’d be huge! Ha-ha.
      Although I personally rarely use a library I think in todays society they’re still so important, especially what you said about feeling like you don’t have to buy anything because considering everybody’s financial state at the moment, some people may not have the money to buy new books and I believe it’s important that everybody, especially children read something!

  3. You raise a very interesting point Jenny. I think we also need to take into consideration the difference between research, academic and lending libraries. The latter, which you find in small towns and has a dwindling market may indeed be on their way out, though I will be sad to see them close down. I live less than a 2 minute walk from my local library at home and I rarely visit it unfortunately! And like you, when I do I often forget about the books I’ve taken out.
    In regards to research and academic libraries however, I don’t think we are in any danger of losing those. University libraries and larger archival libraries such as the British Library are very much thriving and a huge contribution to academic research.

    • I agree, I don’t think we’re in al danger of losing academic libraries due to the amount of people going to university and focusing on education! I was talking mainly about local lending libraries which like you said, have a dwindling market! I have 3 libraries all within a 10 minute car journey of where I live and I never use any of them!

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