In an age of tablets and screens, are paper books a luxury? They have a great battery life, but that’s just about the only advantage books have over their electronic cousins. You can’t read paper books in the dark (they have no inbuilt backlight), they have limited file storage, and they’re bulky and heavy compared to a sleek tablet.
Yes, this is a bit facetious of us. There is a serious issue to be discussed here, and that is that the traditional model of public libraries is a space that provides access to information in the form of rows upon rows of books. However, we now have the internet performing a very similar function. Do we still need public libraries? What role can they play in such an information-rich world?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Victor, who is angry that public libraries are closing down. But why is it happening? Is it because the march of technology is making paper books outdated? Or is that just an excuse to cut public budgets and withdraw services? Why are libraries being closed?
To get a response, we spoke to Ilona Kish, Programme Director (Public Libraries 2020) of the Reading and Writing Foundation.
For another perspective, we also put the same question to Esther de Lange, a Dutch MEP and Vice-Chair of the centre-right Group of the European People’s Party. How would she respond?
So, what is the role of libraries in the digital age? Can they serve as community hubs? Can they offer a place to help train people in digital skills, or provide online access to groups that might otherwise be excluded from the internet?
We put this question to Katerina Havrlant, Marketing Director of the Grow with Google Digital Skills Programme. What would she say?
Next up, we had a comment from Chalks, who says he has been working with homeless people for a decade. Chalks highlights the important of community centres as a vital way to access services. Could that be the role libraries play in a digital age? As a way to offer services to vulnerable groups, such as homeless people?
How would Ilona Kish from the Reading and Writing Foundation respond?
And what would Dutch MEP Esther de Lange say to the same question?
Finally, we had a comment from Ferenc who is worried about a growing “digital divide”, with some groups (such as elderly people) lacking the necessary skills to make use of the internet. Could libraries help teach people new skills, access online services, and close any “digital divide”?
We put this comment to Google’s Katerina Havrlant for her to respond:
What is the role of libraries in the digital age? Can they act as community centres to help vulnerable groups access services? Can they help teach and train people in digital skills? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Chinnapong
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