That Horrible Man…

I was on the Richard Stubbs’ ABC Melbourne radio show a few weeks ago, talking tangentially about the book, when he changed the topic to an sms he had just received. Which said “That horrible person wants to close down libraries.”

Apart from the fact that I don’t think I’m all that horrible, the sms-er has a point of sorts. Libraries, as we know them, might have to change. If we think of libraries as a way to get books themselves, it’s easy to imagine what I like to call the ‘heavenly library’, an online service in which every book ever published is available for download. Think of an itunes store for books; it would bring more books to more people than any library ever has. And what better way to address issues of equity and access than to use existing library infrastructure to provide a way to get access. Perhaps even with a collection of ebook readers for loan, or an expresso machine for printing on demand.

At the moment, my local library is quite modest – it houses a fairly small collection of books, magazines, CDs and videos. But it is a community centre of sorts – they have a reading program for kids, and the place always seems full of people. If books went electronic, there’s no reason why such community places couldn’t still exist – they could be a ‘great good place’, a focal gathering point for the neighbourhood and provide access to media resources (like the hypothetical heavenly library) for those who wouldn’t otherwise be ‘on the grid.’

I don’t want to close down libraries – but I do want to re-imagine them!

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