Friday, December 14, 2007

Are libraries obsolete?

So today, as promised, I went to the library.  This is not an uncommon event.  I probably average three visits per week to a library, gravitate to them like dust to tchotchkes.  

As you may know, the library is a place that some people consider to be obsolete.  In fact whole papers have been written on this topic, mostly to stop some city from spending millions of dollars building a new one.  Check out if you don't believe me.  

Today I went to the library on 7th St in Santa Monica, which cost approximately $73 million to build and let me tell you, I think it was worth every penny: that place is busy.  It always is. Obsolete?  I don't think so. I admit sometimes it's like a day center for the homeless, but maybe they're the only ones who actually have the time to read these days.   Which is perhaps why rich people try to convince us they're obsolete, and close the libraries down  - my, those poor people with all that time on their hands might read some Marx or Debord and get really pissed off and start demanding some justice.  One can only dream...  

You know, I think the library was always obsolete for the wealthy, as they've always had their own private libraries where they didn't have to rub shoulders or share worn pages with riff-raff like me.  And now, it's becoming obsolete for more people, for all those who can afford to have internet at home and buy piles of books from Amazon, and prefer never to leave the comfortable confine of their own home.

For everyone else it is still a kind of haven (or a heaven if you are very fond of books).

The only place I know of where I can browse the complete set of Oxford English Dictionaries without anyone bothering me.  

So today I checked out their definition of 'obsolete' and you know, it wasn't too different from what we got online.  Though they did have this line: " effaced through atrophy " which I found pretty irresistible (the word atrophy has always had a certain appeal, triumphant wasting, degeneration as a trophy of idleness - trust the OED).

Perhaps libraries will one day be obsolete.  The powerful few who want to control knowledge and who has access to it will win.

But in the meantime, I think the pubic library can escape a listing in the Obselidia.  

Don't you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Libraries are so over. Don't be nostalgic. Live in the now.