A recent opinion piece on CNN (by Rachel Kramer Bussel) highlights an article by Panos Mourdoukoutas that brought up the controversial point: “Amazon stores should replace libraries.” That is, Amazon, with its reading devices and online platforms, will diminish the need for local, public libraries. Being in the age of technology, this hypothesis is not completely unfounded. The rate of Kindles, Nooks, and online reading tools are on the rise and are beginning to be used by more and more people. In addition, Mourdoukoutas states that eliminating libraries will save taxpayers’ money.
However, as with any discussion, it is important to take all contributing factors into account before making a decision or forming an opinion. One of these factors is libraries provide resources other than just books. There are specialized books (such as those in large print), free Internet, computer use, community programs, eBooks, audiobooks, movies, music, and more. The staff have a degree in library science and/or have been trained in the organization and execution of libraries.
Some are outraged by this suggestion. One of these people is Rachel Kramer Bussel who argues, “Libraries are one of the last remaining civic spaces open to the public. They provide vital services and are storehouses of information.” I think Bussel’s points are logical, especially as she continues her argument. She states that libraries are one of the few places “where vulnerable people can connect with the resources to improve their lives.” For example, some individuals do not have a computer at home, let alone Internet access. They may go to the library to fill out an online job application using the library’s free Internet access. Additionally, with a library card, the books, movies, music, CDs, eBooks, and other products are free. Buying potentially pricey eBooks or hardcover books may not be an option for some who are in low-income households.
Another benefit to libraries is the community programming and events they often hold. Sometimes, libraries have community outreach programs for senior citizens in the area or a reading classes/programs for young children. Bussel’s piece points out that the American Library Association reports a whopping 95% of libraries offer some type of summer reading program. There are also classes for adults including, but not limited to, cooking, technology, and even American Sign Language (ASL). For some, these events may seem trivial; however, for a senior citizen who lives alone or a child who needs socializing in a healthy environment, these interactions at the library are critical for their well-being and happiness.
Overall, I think libraries are extremely beneficial to society as a whole and will not be eliminated in the near future. Additionally, I do not believe that Amazon, as an entity in it of itself, will be the eliminator of them. However, I’m curious – what do you think? Are libraries on the decline? Will Amazon and other new technological options take their places? Are libraries still beneficial in modern-day society?