Learning Blog #8a: The Limits of Technology (aka Why people still need Library Spaces)

In Which I Reference Too Many other People, (use too many parenthesis), hop up on my milk crate and hopefully end on a happy note)

Since this week’s Learning Blog is a “Topic of our own chosing,” I’m going to go find a milk crate to stand on and pontificate on why people still need physical libraries.  One of the reoccuring topics here behind the Looking Glass is the library at the Occupy Wall Street Movement. To me, the very idea that in our super-hyped world of  Google, smart phones, tablets, clouds, and the seemingly abbundance of information is that people still need a physical connection to their information. The library histroian Matthew Battles eloquently lays out the importance of people gathering and creating libraries  http://vimeo.com/30956239 and http://hilobrow.com/2011/10/19/tactical-utopia/, and St. Olaf librarian Barbara Fister also writes about their importance http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/home/892578-264/why_the_occupy_wall_street.html.csp.  They have put it more elequently than I ever could. . .

. . .but I will try. I agree with Fister’s definition, ” It’s more a way to define the community through a culturally meaningful form of sharing”. This need for human connection and sharing is seemingly hardwired into us; as soon as we get information we feel the need the to share with the larger community. So libraries will exist in some form or other whenever people need to share, which it turns out is always. We always want to share, the rise of the Peer to Peer network and the Maker Movement just being to recent developments. For libraries the question is quickly becoming how do we enable this sharing when the very idea of ownership is eroding? That is, with eBooks, licensing agreements, and Clouds beginning to dominate the conversation, how do we enable and empower the very human need to connect?

Well,we keep library spaces for one. The Maker Movement, (a group that is hyper connected digitally), still meets at regular Fairs and Spaces. We still gather together at movies and plays and concerts, despite the fact that the technology of visual and audio  story telling could allow us to never leave our home. The relatively new idea of Coworking (shared work space) exists for the same reason, people want to share and need the physical space in which to do it.

We keep library space. No doubt it will change, it should change, and become something more wonderful and creative than we can ever imagine today. As the seemingly decline of the codex occurs, we will probably lose (are losing) the “library where their are lots of books” space (although perhaps the idea of more specialized libraries, such as Children’s Libraries, will rise). Perhaps libraries will go physically “more mobile” as well, in Spain the have popular lending libraries which set up shop on beeches, Biblioplayas (must be a rough gig 🙂

We keep library spaces. I find it comforting that in one of the darkest hours of humanity, libraries esisted. Alberto Manguetl writes movingly in his The Library at Night about the secret children’s library in Block 31 of the Nazi “Family Camp” in Birkenau. Only 8-10 physical books ever circulated, although older children would take turns sharing from memory their favorite stories. This was known as “exchanging books in the library” (Manguel, 240-241). Library space, however it is defined, needs to by physically exist. Where it doesn’t, people create it.  They create community, be it in the streets of New York, the camps of Germany,or the beaches of Spain. So no more talk of the end of the library please. Shhhh. We’re too busy creating community…..


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