Libraries Gone Digital

digital library
Image courtesy of http://lonewolflibrarian.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/help-wanted-library-automation-web-developer-for-digital-library-fort-worth-texas-08-01-12/

As a book lover, I have fond childhood memories of spending hours at the library, browsing and finding books of all sorts. I would sit and read and learn about animals and absorb books about fantastical creatures and science fiction. The value of the library, however, seems to have gone awry in our age of digital literature.

A boarding school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in changing its library to an entirely digital format. This change has many librarians and book lovers wondering if this will become a wave of transformation that will affect the libraries around the US. One can look at this renovation in many ways.

THE PROS

A digital library seems to evolve with the times. Many people have iPads and tablets and even e-readers on their phones. Simply put, digital books are easier to carry around and much more convenient for the avid reader. From traveling; to going on vacation; to even just reading on transit, the e-reader makes reading voraciously an easy task. Children, with e-books, no longer have to carry around heavy textbooks in their backpacks with a light tablet that stores all of their books for them.  The changes to libraries just may reflect the growing and perhaps permanent trend of electronic books.

THE CONS

Nostalgia may be taking over my opinion of digital libraries but a brick and mortar library without paper books seems rather dystopian to me. Libraries, to me, are meant to be browsed through. The act of collecting and walking out with a good stack of books in my hand was close to sheer joy. Not everyone may have these fond memories but I believe that children should be given the opportunity to browse in libraries. Digital libraries take away that opportunity. In a digital library, books cannot truly be browsed. One must simply look up the book. There is no act of picking up a physical book and feeling the weight of the book in one’s hand.

I believe that the knowledge gained from browsing books and reading various novels far outweighs the benefits of digital libraries. But perhaps this evolution of libraries will have good consequences. But as a “digital native”, I truly believe that the value of brick and mortar libraries with physical books are irreplaceable.

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