One of the less publicised victims of digital technology has been the traditional library. Once the staple of communities, they are slowly becoming rarer and turned into more profitable developments for local authorities. Local libraries were not always just a place to get books– you could rent out movies, study there and even hold meetings. But is there soon going to be a time where kids are no longer familiar with what a physical library is? Or even what a physical book is?
Over the past few decades as the rise of the digital age has gotten into full swing, e-books have become more prominent and the quick accessibility of the internet on our computers and phones has done away with the library being the main hub of information. While physical books are currently still more popular than digital ones, it seems like a matter of time that hard copies are no longer profitable or popular enough for publishers to print, and everything becomes fully digital. The positives far outweigh the negatives– regular updates can be made to books over the internet, thousands of books can be stored on a tablet or phone that weigh less than one physical book, and notes can be made on these without damaging the actual book. These are only a few of the pros and point to a future without physical books, and therefore removing the need for the traditional library as we know it.
Libraries, although known for their quiet environment, are also hubs for information sharing and therefore many have meeting spaces. This has been one of their most popular amenities until the pandemic struck as small businesses and groups without a large budget would take advantage of meeting rooms that would otherwise cost a few hundred pounds in co-working spaces and such. Desk booking systems used in such expensive co-working spaces are also utilised in libraries but offered at a fraction of the cost. This is a valuable asset to communities looking to grow and a reason why physical libraries may survive a bit longer, however, they would need to build upon this to continue to make libraries viable.
At the moment, while the world is still struggling to get to grips with covid and accepting it as a normal part of life, people are reluctant to spend hours indoors with other people, which is basically what you would expect to find in a physical library. If people are uncomfortable with this, then the demand for physical libraries drops and the people, in turn, will search for alternatives that they may never go back from.
The old saying that “you never know what you have until it’s gone” will most likely be true as we see more and more physical libraries shut. However, this might be some way away as physical books are still popular and many of the facilities they provide are still popular, although it is certainly looking like only a matter of time.