Pencils, Backpacks, and Perspective: On Libraries

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It seems that of all of the things that education technology is changing, libraries are often the most looked over. Since the advent of ebooks and the internet, people have been predicting the end of books. An end which, surprisingly has not yet arrived. So do we strive to keep libraries the way they are? Or update them?

From my point of view, a library has always been an intrinsic part of my education. When I was young, it was a place to go beyond what I was learning in the classroom. A place for exploration and development that was largely self-driven. As I got older it became a necessary resource for research. I can’t imagine going through school without a library. However, the concept of a library has changed quite a bit since I was first taught how to use them. My current library employs eight large floors of books as well as a multitude of online sources. It is a perfect example of melding new technology with the old.

I think there is a big difference between books in a library and books in a classroom. I have advocated before on here switching to ebooks for textbooks, for a multitude of reasons. However, I tend to take the opposite stance when it comes to libraries. For me, browsing through the books in a library is an experience in and of itself that cannot be replaced by an internet search. And while I groan along with my fellow students when internet sources are banned for a project, I always come to realize by the end of it that I have discovered and absorbed much more new knowledge than I would have on Google.

So, in light of the unfortunate decline of books and the progression of technology, how do we make sure libraries are suited to current students’ needs? One method, as I mentioned is the duality of a tangible library and a digital one. Resources like JSTOR and others tend to be a fairly expensive alternative to an actual library, but also offer the advantage of a much wider availability of information. Many books are being scanned at librairies nowadays, which is relatively cheaper, and yet still limited. And a traditional library on its own is generally outdated and unable to provide the range of resources often needed in education. Which brings us back to combining the alternatives for a more well-rounded research and learning experience.

As a digital native, but also traditional bookworm, it saddens me to think that old libraries will cease to exist one day. I’m all for the progression of technology, but I don’t think that progress has to entail destroying the traditional. Still, the only way we can keep libraries relevant is to continue believing they are relevant.

What do you think? Are libraries a thing of the past, or something to preserve for the future?