In a time where the sum total of books held in a library can fit on a device that can fit in your coat, what exactly is the function of a library as a physical place?

To me, a library is a thing not a place. I wrote about a fictional library, called Kumbu, for my FRONTIER game background over on lategaming. In this description, I describe libraries as places to store knowledge in order to prevent a future dark age. That is the core function of a library, to my … Continue reading “In a time where the sum total of books held in a library can fit on a device that can fit in your coat, what exactly is the function of a library as a physical place?”

To me, a library is a thing not a place.

I wrote about a fictional library, called Kumbu, for my FRONTIER game background over on lategaming. In this description, I describe libraries as places to store knowledge in order to prevent a future dark age. That is the core function of a library, to my mind.

This comes because the UK government is, in the wake of saving the workplaces of a few scumbags who brought the global economy to its knees, has now to make difficult decisions and perhaps close a selection of libraries in order to help rebalance the economy.

A lively debate on Twitter ensued because I’m not positive that we should be saving libraries in their current form. The defence council for libraries is arguing that they are community hubs, they contain DVDs, music, magazines, places for community groups to meet. Apparently they also contain the odd book or three.

I would argue it was access to books and literature which made one a writer. Not a library.

And a library as a refuge for the homeless? That’s hardly a good use of a library.

I remain unconvinced on the utility of the library as a place. Libraries must be more than just rooms filled with stacks of dead trees.

0 thoughts on “In a time where the sum total of books held in a library can fit on a device that can fit in your coat, what exactly is the function of a library as a physical place?”

  1. Bangor Library recently underwent a huge rebuilding. It’s a lovely space now.
    interestingly, it seems to have a lot less books. It now has a room full of computers anyone can use, some training rooms, and some comfy seats were you can read slightly crumpled issues of popular magazines.

    I like the idea of a library as a concept, but in practice, it’s mostly a place for older people and the unemployed to hang out. It’s a drop-in social centre. Can the UK afford those? Probably not. They aren’t “luxuries”, but they aren’t as important as Accident and Emergency wards.

    When I was living in Bangor, I’d hoped that the new library would be somewhere I could bring a laptop and work when I needed to escape the home office. It’s not that kinda of place either, which is fine, as really I was just hoping it would be free office space I could use.

    LIbraries as a storage place for reference books just doesn’t make sense any more. Sure, the nobel idea of a place of learning for public is nice, but I don’t think we can afford such a place. And I’m not sure they would get used much.

    Their role today is to (a) provide a warm place, and (b) keep a large collection paperback novels and other entertainments for the housebound.

    I’d rather any reference sections were taken to, say, a Tech or University, which then opened up it’s library / study areas / meeting rooms to registered (possibly paying) users. The libraries could then be more honest in their real, current purpose and be funded appropriately.

  2. Going to a physical space makes sense to me if I am going to something that cannot be delivered to me physically or digitally.

    This is why I like the concept of knowledge cafés, penny universities and co-working spaces. Because a human cannot be delivered digitally. Yet.

  3. A franchise of gentleman’s clubs for nerds stretching all over the civilized world.. Turn up, swipe your card, get internet, a quiet place to work, a coffee bar, reserve a meeting room with teleconferencing.. I’d pay 1000 quid a year for that. More, as it would be deductible as a business expense.

  4. Oh, and a lounge area with plenty of whiteboards and sofas.

    If you’ve ever been in a Microsoft or Google HQ building, it would be like that. Those workspaces are excellent, and what I miss the most about working for The Borg. Well, that and healthcare.

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