By Rebecca Burke
(Oct. 19, 2011) Some people think that libraries don’t need to grow in a digital world. This might make sense if every home had a computer and all printed matter and other items could be digitized rapidly. Or if people only visited the library to check out books. But none of these things is the case.
Crucially, the library is a place where everyone has access to information, not just those with their own PCs, laptops, and high-speed connections or the deep pockets needed to buy unlimited books, periodical subscriptions, and memberships to multiple reference sources.
But really, who can afford all that they would like to be able to read and use? The library pays for these things, so that individuals don’t have to do so.
Shockingly, for every new book or other item added, one has to be removed. The library’s mission to update and preserve its collection is seriously undermined by its lack of space.
It is a myth that all books will soon be digitized, eliminating the need for more shelf space in libraries. Digitizing is not a cheap or easy process, with all sorts of complex copyright and logistical issues. Given the millions of books in print, it would take decades, say experts. Most believe paper books will be around for a long time.
In addition to its physical and online collection, the library provides computers to patrons for job searches, research, and personal business. In the last five years, the number of computer “customers “ has grown from 51,918 (2006) to 66,015 (2010), a trend likely to continue.
The Ames library draws nearly half a million visitors a year. They come to borrow books, DVDs, and music, do research, attend films, concerts, and meetings, acquire new skills, and celebrate important events. This evolution of the library as a public meeting space is exciting, but it requires a facility that is larger and more flexible and security-conscious.
In the Information Age, libraries are more important than they ever have been. They are one of the great equalizers--public libraries and of course public schools. We all benefit from tax dollars spent on these institutions.
Please vote YES November 8th to support the Ames Public Library.