National Library Week 2014

Happy National Library Week!

Earlier this week, I had this conversation (again) as I was introduced to a friend-of-a-friend who explained I worked for the Library Foundation.

“Boy, I bet the Library is really struggling because of eBooks.”

“No,” I said. “Not really. The Library isn’t going anywhere.”

National Library Week started in the late 1950s because people were all up in arms that radio and TV were going to spell the demise of libraries.

To be clear, it’s 2014 now and libraries are still here. I’d lay good money on the idea that in 2070 or so, libraries will still be around, even as we have this conversation over and over that eBooks do NOT mean the demise of libraries.

Will they look different? Sure. In the 1950s (heck, through the 80s and 90s when I was in public school), I used a CARD CATALOG card catalogto find the books I needed for school projects. I couldn’t bring a beverage into the library because it might get spilled on the books. We used ZIP disks for saving high school newspaper pages because those disks would hold 2GB. The idea that I would daily carry around devices that can hold 8 to 16 times that much data was science fiction.

Libraries are one of the most important places for both preserving the past and pushing into the future. Today, there’s a Google Glass demonstration happening at Central Library. Twenty years ago, we probably never imagined that the library would be checking out eBooks. In 20 years, we might be able to check out wearables (or whatever is next) from the library. On the 6th floor of the Indy Library, there’s a leaf from a Gutenberg Bible. Old and new, together.

Here’s some good news about libraries/reading, from Pew research:

  • 95 percent of Americans in a Pew survey say that libraries are important to promote reading and literacy.
  • More than 85% of 16-17 year-olds read at least one book in 2012. The majority of those were print books.
  • Those under age 30 are just as likely as older adults to visit the library, browse the shelves and check out books.

Still, even while the stats are good, I want to offer a few challenges for all of us.

  • Don’t just buy the eBook; download it from your library. Even if it’s 2 a.m.
  • Attend a Library program. There’s so much more happening inside the building. Borrow a friend’s kid if you have to and go to story time.
  • If you’re already a library lover, consider becoming a donor. (Sorry, I can’t help wear my job hat sometimes.) Truth is, I was a library donor before I started fundraising for them. If you love story time or computer classes or books or whatever service you use most, become a Friend of your Library.

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