Google has revolutionized the way we access information. You used to have to navigate pages of links and categories (and as a webmaster, submit your site to several search engines for indexing if you wanted your site to be found!) and search results weren’t listed by relevancy- they were ordered by how many pages linked to them (anyone remember webrings and link exchanges? “link to my website and I’ll link to yours!”) or in a seemingly random order. And before that, you had to know the exact address to go to the site at all.
Now we have web crawlers, spiders, bots- You don’t even really have to know what you’re searching for anymore! Google will guess your search before you even finish typing and can even understand text-speak (the, often annoying, use of abbreviations and slang to shorten written communications). Complex algorithms bring you the most relevant search results first- you’ll seldom need to leave the first page of search results to find what you’re looking for.
So, why do we need libraries now that Google and the internet is so great?
Not all information is available online- or free
Don’t get me wrong- you can find almost everything online. There are communities out there for almost any interest you can imagine where you can connect with people and get information, even if you can’t find it via search results.
When I was learning bookbinding, there was a ton of information, pictures, and videos of people demonstrating a variety of techniques. And while I learned a lot watching all these folks, there was still a problem- you had to determine who was an expert and who was an amateur. The person telling you “Copy paper/Elmer’s glue/etc is fine! I use it in all my binding projects” doesn’t mention (and probably doesn’t know!) that these products can make bookbinding more difficult, frustrating, and make the end result look… well, less desirable.
It wasn’t until I checked out a book from the library that I started getting more information about paper-grain, the value of “archival quality” products (how to ensure that the projects I made would last), etc. When you’re starting any project, you don’t know what you don’t know! What my 10th grade English teacher told me really was true- “Internet sources are fine! But you need to be sure you’re getting your information from a reliable source and you also need to have book sources to back it up!”
Often (and this may change as we become an increasingly online society) the experts in any given field are still writing books as a way to monetize their expertise (and why shouldn’t they?) rather than giving it away for free on the internet. Even then, as libraries already offer free public access to a myriad of online services and digital information, libraries will most likely be the gateway through which people access new methods for pay-gated content; free access to information for the public has long been the mission of public libraries.
In a different way, libraries can disconnect us from the internet. In an age where people spend increasing amounts of time in front of their computers (leading to computer-induced medical problems such as postural disorders, vitamin D deficiency, and other health issues), libraries can help us connect with people in the “real world”- and that’s a good thing! Libraries can connect you with experts, artists, authors, and your community- face to face! Check out one of our adult programs such as “Wild Critter Adventures,” “Leaf Peeping 101,” or “Storytelling Guild” series. You can also find out how your child can kick off the school year right with their own library card and programs geared especially towards improving scholastic skills.
Not everyone has access to the internet
One thing some people often forget is that not everyone has a computer or internet access at home- or the knowledge needed to utilize these tools effectively. In Western North Carolina, we have areas that don’t even have the option of getting broadband internet. I live right at the edge of where DSL service is available in Franklin. If I lived a little further down the road, my only options would be dial-up (think back to how long it used to take to load an image- let alone a youtube video!) or satellite internet (that may or may not work, depending on how the trees grew in that spring).
Poverty is also an issue in WNC communities. In addition to providing free, public access computers the library provides a multitude of classes that can help build job-seeking skills and help build confidence with technology. Check out our computer classes if you need assistance with basic computer use, social media, image editing, and more. Our library programs also offer an excellent opportunity to make community connections and build inter-personal networks.
Further Reading on the Importance of Libraries
If I had to touch on everything the library does, this blog post could run on indefinitely! If you need more convincing or more information about the value of public libraries, check out some of these articles:
Are Librarians Totally Obsolete? – CollegeOnline
Social Role of the Library – American Library Association
Why are Libraries Essential? – Libraries Are Essential
Reasons for Public Libraries – Voices for the Library (UK)
The Role of Libraries in People’s Lives & Communities – Pew Internet
We have people tell us everyday what the library means to them, and how important it is in their lives; do you have a “library story?” What’s your favorite thing about your local library or your favorite way to use your library card?
Don’t forget to show your support for Macon County Public Library at “Books on Tap,” a fundraiser sponsored by the Friends of the Macon County Public Library to be held at the Lazy Hiker Brewing Company on October 1st from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.
You can buy your ticket at Macon County Public Library or the Friends of the Library Bookstore for $25, so stop in and get yours today!