Thursday, May 22, 2008

Libraries and Booksellers vs. Digital

"Aristotle lived during the era when the written word started displacement of the oral tradition, becoming the first to explain that how we communicate alters what we communicate. That's for sure. Now we are early in an era where digital rhetoric is replacing the more traditional written word. Ir's already an open question whether constant email and multitasking leaves us overloaded humans with the capability to handle longer-form writing." (Think books)

This article in the WSJ continues, "To expect future generations to be satisfied with printed books is like expecting Blackberry users of today to communicate by writing letters, stuffing envelopes and licking stamps."

Forty years ago we were warned that electric technology is within the gates and we are numb, dumb, deaf, blind and mute about its encounter with the Gutenberg technology on and through which the American way of life was formed.

Digitized words can be spread at low cost in newly interactive ways. Amazons Kindle, now on the market can deliver 100,000 books wireless in less than a minute whether you are in the back of a taxi, at the airport, driving, or resting in bed.

The libraries being proposed for Peoria will be obsolete before they are built. Plus they will be in almost direct competition with Barnes and Noble and Borders. Barnes and Noble closed today on the NYSE at $29.87 down from $43.90 a year ago and Borders closed at $6.99 down from $24.16 a year ago. Borders is struggling so bad that the WSJ says there is dialogue between the two for Borders to be taken over by Barnes and Noble. "Barnes and Noble Studies Bid for Border" in today's WSJ.

Doesn't speak well for these tax paying multi-purpose "libraries" does it?

There will always be a need for printed media but the use of printed media is shrinking in useage. What we are planning is in direct competition of the tax-paying private sector with easy chairs, food and drink, meeting rooms, printed media, digital that will soon not need a "library" to access and unsupervised computers. Plus a few thousand linear feet of almost obsolete "reference books".

I remind you that not one high school principal, high school librarian or Mary Ward, Director of Peoria Public School Library and Technology Center, were consulted as to what they see in the way kids are using libraries now or how they might use them in the future.

How do I know this? I asked them.



dd said...

Your comments about electronic media being the death of printed books reminds me of the advent of VHS movies. (Now I sound like an old geezer remembering the good old days). Anyway, remember how VHS was supposed to be the be the death of movie theatres. I remember several people saying "nobody is going to pay $5.00 for a ticket to a movie when you can rent it for $2.00 or buy it for $10!" But that didn't happen because the moviegoing "experience" was more than just watching the movie. The same with books and printed material. No matter how advanced the technology becomes, at least for the next 20-30 years (the life span of a new library) printed material and libraries as their repositories will still be essential. Without getting into great detail, a couple of advantages come to mind: 1) don't you find it much easier on the eyes if your going to read the equivilent of a hundred or so pages at a time to read printed material rather than some kind of electronic projection; and 2) what about the library and its staff as the roadmaps to knowledge- how do I find this, what is the best sourse for this information - what is another point of view from this author. Yes, you could Google or Wikipidia, but I think money is well spent on a library. If nothing else, a good library will mix all different media for the best result. Libraries do not compete with bookstores now, so why would they in the future. Like many people I use both the library and Barnes/Borders. Are you really saying that its unamerican to have the government lend books in competition with booksellers. If so, that's a new one that I don't even think the most Republicans among us would agree with. Clearly there is a place for both libraries and booksellers. And, at the risk of sounding un-american myself, I don't think the decision to build a new library should rest to any large degree on whether it will be good for the kids. What about the rest of us?

Merle Widmer said...


I didn't say that all. We have 10 close in area libraries counting Fondulac and Alpha Park all within easy driving or bus ride distance from most all parts of the city. Wth the closing of Southside Library, most users of that location will need to ride a bus or drive so they could go to the nice Alpha Park Library. Compare library users to users of Courthouse Services. Should we build courthouses in each section of the city, in Chillicothe, Bartonville, etc.?

As to movies, who wants to stay cooped up all the time? People still go to restuarants even though most everything and more can be found in a grocery or convenience store.

I contend and can prove all our libraries are underutilized except Lakeview and if we are going to build a large branch out north why spend +millions to expand Lakeview??

The statement made by one of our leading politicans "that no money has been spent on libraries in 40 years" is easily disproved. Start with $500,000-600,000 Southside Library, slated to be torn down, with it's $80,000 elevator accessed only with a librarians key, the new circulation desk, new entrance and self-check-out machines at Lakeview, the new RiverWest library to name a few expenditures.

Some libraries don't want Peorians to use their libraries because we don't pay taxes for their libraries. Do they pay taxes to use the mostly free 9,000 acre Peoria Park District facilities? I think not.