The coming crisis for libraries

June 9, 2020 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism.

What will libraries be when we are rebuilding our society and social structures after the pandemic?

“Essential” is one of the words that Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, uses.

Marx, in a recent New York Times article, writes:

. . . it clear to us that libraries must invest — or continue to invest — in digital and virtual technologies and expertise. There is so much more we can do. Every library should aspire to provide the broadest possible digital access to all books and the world’s accumulated knowledge, not just the snippets now available on the web. The digital public library is a piece of necessary public infrastructure that must be built with the same care, collaboration, and adherence to values — including privacy — that we have used to build and run our branches. Source: Opinion | After the Coronavirus, Libraries Must Change – The New York Times

But libraries must to more than invest in digital services. The traditional physical services are also important. Providing an open, safe, and calm environment for people to come, read, work, and think; offering computer services to the digitally deprived; stretching and encouraging programming into new and uncharted areas — these are just a few of the roles the public library must play.

Unfortunately, as with every other institution in the public sector, library budgets are being devastated by the pandemic. And many public officials do not consider them “essential.”

Taking this attitude imperils the community, and those of us who love libraries need to gear up for the crisis ahead.


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