YESTERDAY, FORBES AUTHOR Panos Mourdoukoutas wrote an article dismissing the importance of libraries. He suggested using Amazon, Netflix, and Starbucks instead.
Okay, there’s so much wrong with that. I, along with everyone in my profession, took some serious umbrage. You might have read some tweets about it.
The thing that got me, though, was that the author failed to note that libraries are no longer only about books. They haven’t been for a long, long time. While books are certainly a library’s main programming, libraries also provide services to enrich the public good.
Have you heard of the digital divide? If you’re reading my blog post, you might not have. Simply put, it’s the divide between people who have tech and can access the internet, and those who don’t have tech and can’t access the internet. These people might not be able to afford the tech, their schools may not have the money for it, or their regions may not have reliable service. As tech continues to grow more and more important, people who lack basic competencies can’t compete in the job market.
That’s where we come in. Public libraries are working to bridge the digital gap. They provide basic instruction on Microsoft Office, social media, and online competencies. For example, check out the New York City Public Library’s programming and how it’s helping bridge the gap. or how Pittsburgh’s public libraries reinvented themselves for the digital age.
We provide these services for the public good. Are we free? No, we’re supported by taxes, endowments, grants, and gifts. Do you have to pay? Not including the taxation, no, you don’t. The author’s outrage notwithstanding, that was the one good thing that came out of that ridiculous article – people stood up for libraries, to the point that Forbes ended up pulling it from its site.
Panos should have known better than to take on librarians. We serve the public for no other reason than to serve the public. And we’ve got the stats on our side to prove it.
For more information on the Digital Divide: