End of Libraries

"Bookless Libraries" asks whether the brick-and-mortar library is dead, or simply in transition. Reading it, I asked myself, “What is a library?” And the answer was not “a place that holds books,” but “a place that celebrates books.”

I love libraries, I always have. In elementary school, going to the library meant a break from spelling and fractions to sit cross-legged with friends while a librarian read stories to us. When I was nine, I even got to meet a real life author in a library, and though I can’t remember who he was, I felt extremely privileged to have met him.

In high school, the literary journals were dangerously close to the music section, and I was sure to come across a book on the history of rock n’ roll or composition or books of sheet music. I would sit on the floor for hours and thumb through the books, pausing to occasionally return to my work.

In college, I didn’t get a single book at the library, though I spent many, many hours there. I would meet friends, study groups, and work on calculus or programming . The library wasn’t a place for books, but it was still a place for learning. Now I work right across the street from a library, and I eat lunch outside of every day. The library still has books, but I go for the atmosphere: the wonder of the kids trying to calm their excited stage-whispers; the fun, outdated decorations, the readings, and the monthly displays that advocate literacy, oppose censorship, or agitate in favor of knowledge.

Just about anything I need is now online. I don’t go to the library any less often. The library is not a place for the obsolete codex to rest from its labors; it’s a place to celebrate the knowledge that the codex brought and to facilitate a date with that knowledge. When you say, “I’m off to the library” what you’re really saying—whether you’re going to meet a study group, do research, or work on today’s assignment—is “I’m off to gain knowledge.” And as long as there is a place in the human spirit for the thirst for knowledge, the library won’t be going anywhere.