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Thread: In the age of the Internet, of what use is a library?

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    In the age of the Internet, of what use is a library?

    In the age of the Internet, of what use is a library?
    This statement was made in Gillian's thread on what everyone should know.

    Now, I haven't been to a library in ages but I have to believe that there are still invaluable resources there, besides the ability to check out several books (for free) and take them home and read them. Just the ability to grab a handful of books off the shelf and read passages from each is a difficult thing to do on the web. I think libraries will have a purpose for many years to come. What do you think?

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    Here's some things that libraries still do:

    1. yes, it is nice to have the ability to browse a book shelf and grab something to read.
    2. One of the most popular things is public PC's that can be used to access the internet, or free wifi for those with their own laptop. Great for people that cannot afford a computer, or are out of work and unable to pay for internet.
    3. Interlibrary loan. the ability to obtain materials that are rare, or have limited availability, and are not available on the internet
    4. libraries at universities have subscriptions to industry journals which may not be available elsewhere or can be very expensive.

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    Librarians. These are people trained in research, in separating the wheat from the chaff. Now, part of my utter faith in the need for librarians is the fact that, well, my best friend is one (or anyway, works in a library; to truly be a librarian, you need a Masters in Library Science). However, I know that she can take the stupidest, most poorly-worded question you can imagine and eventually get the answer the person is looking for. It is very difficult to use a search engine if you aren't quite sure what terms you should be looking for. Eventually, I suppose it's possible to put librarian features on websites, but you'd still need the actual person; it's not a process that can be automated.

    Rare book rooms. Libraries provide important tools for the storage and handling of rare books that would not otherwise be able to be in public hands.

    Storytime for small children. Sure, you can do audio books, but for one thing, they're awfully expensive. For another, storytime also provides tools for developing social interaction.

    Oversized books. There is, at the library where my friend works, a positively enormous book of photos from space. I'm sure you can get the photos online somewhere. However, unless you have an awfully big monitor, you can't get the full impact of seeing the photos in all their glory. (It also includes essays by various astronauts, but words on a screen would convey that equally well.)

    From a purely aesthetic sense, there is to me a great joy in just wandering the stacks, even if I'm not looking for anything in particular--which is, now I think about it, another benefit of libraries. Browsing. You can just wander aimlessly among the shelves, picking up a book and flipping through it, running your fingers along the spines, looking at a book because the title or the cover caught your eye. Following Wikipedia links can be fun, but it's not at all the same thing.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    I'm very much looking forward to owning a portable digital reader (like Amazon's Kindle) but until then I will be using my library. Probably even afterward. I buy some books that I know I will want to keep and/or read again, but I'd rather borrow most of them. It seems a very green way to go! And few books are available on the internet for free. Always free at the library!

    Currently I primarily use the library to check out books on CD to listen to in the car. Those are much more expensive than books!

    Until January, I had lived all of my 32.5 years within walking distance of a library. My childhood home, various apartments, and of course college/summer internships at universities. I was proud of that, and am very disappointed that the home I hope to live at least my next 32.5 years in is just a tad too far away to walk to the local branch. But it's within biking distance! Maybe I'll have to become one of those crazy Minnesotans that bike even when it's -10F.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aurora View Post
    4. libraries at universities have subscriptions to industry journals which may not be available elsewhere or can be very expensive.
    Similarly, most libraries have subscriptions to "regular" magazines that you can look at for free (even back issues). You usually can also see that content on the Internet, but you have to pay. Every time I need to read up on a particular product from Consumer Reports, I hit the library.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    From a purely aesthetic sense, there is to me a great joy in just wandering the stacks, even if I'm not looking for anything in particular--which is, now I think about it, another benefit of libraries. Browsing. You can just wander aimlessly among the shelves, picking up a book and flipping through it, running your fingers along the spines, looking at a book because the title or the cover caught your eye. Following Wikipedia links can be fun, but it's not at all the same thing.
    Yes. I can spend hours just browsing a book store or a library.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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    Looks like a bunch of fellow bibliophiles got there first, but...

    In the continuing Age of the Library, what use is the Internet?

    First, and very compelling, data can be accessed through EyeBrain Interface 1.0. All that is needed is a source of visible light photons (The sun works well). I can take a book off the shelf printed in 1884 and read it no trouble. There is no server to crash, no new versions of software, no viruses, no one blocking my access to unpopular sites. Books work anywhere, never give a low battery signal, and if dropped accidentally usually continue working afterward.

    You cannot easily put your finger in a Kindle to hold a place while you check something else.

    Old books smell good.

    There is a fine subspecies of human known as The Librarian (Ook!). These people can assist you in a manner similar to a search engine, except they actually understand what you want, as well as offering possibilities you might not have thought of.

    Anyone can walk into a public library for free and use the materials. No subscription fee, no pay-per-article.

    Wheel, fire, cloth, library. Some of the great inventons of the human race.

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    Libraries are completely useless, and should be converted into something better; like McDonalds or Starbucks.

    No one reads anymore anyway.



    ...

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    There's still a lot of information simply isn't available on the Internet. When you come to a Wikipedia citation that doesn't include any blue text, that's actually a special EyeBrain Interface 1.0 hyperlink.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tucson_Tim View Post
    Now, I haven't been to a library in ages but I have to believe that there are still invaluable resources there, besides the ability to check out several books (for free) and take them home and read them. Just the ability to grab a handful of books off the shelf and read passages from each is a difficult thing to do on the web. I think libraries will have a purpose for many years to come. What do you think?
    Actually, I have never been in a library in my life. Having said that, I have built up my own library, with about 4000 books, starting with the very first book I ever owned, Alice in Wonderland...

    I also rarely go to bookstores since the rise of Amazon. Amazon now allows you to actually browse books and read some pages. The selection is enormous, and they make suggestions based on past history and suggesting that person who read what you are looking at, all so read the following...

    The only books I buy and want physicial copies of, are novels. Anything which has to do with knowledg and experience: solely the internet.

    Newspapers, same thing: stopped reading paper copies, since the internet version is much more up-to-date.

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    I also rarely go to bookstores since the rise of Amazon. Amazon now allows you to actually browse books and read some pages. The selection is enormous, and they make suggestions based on past history and suggesting that person who read what you are looking at, all so read the following...
    Yeah. Our bookstore is useless anyway. They never have the book you want (unless it's the novel the latest kiddie blockbuster movie is based on). The dumbest thing is, they always look at you and with a 'we're so great' expression say, "Oh, but we can order it for you!" ... I can order it for me. And even with shipping, Amazon is cheaper. Thanks but no thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Newspapers, same thing: stopped reading paper copies, since the internet version is much more up-to-date.
    Another subject but . . . I love to read a newspaper. Yes, I can get the same local news online but it's not the same. Sitting on the patio on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and the local "rag" is part of my life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike alexander View Post
    ... no one blocking my access to unpopular sites
    Well, except for the occassional book burning/banning group. But, no worse than on the Internet.

    Old books smell good.
    Yes, yes they do.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Actually, I have never been in a library in my life. Having said that, I have built up my own library, with about 4000 books, starting with the very first book I ever owned, Alice in Wonderland...

    I also rarely go to bookstores since the rise of Amazon. Amazon now allows you to actually browse books and read some pages. The selection is enormous, and they make suggestions based on past history and suggesting that person who read what you are looking at, all so read the following...

    The only books I buy and want physicial copies of, are novels. Anything which has to do with knowledg and experience: solely the internet.

    Newspapers, same thing: stopped reading paper copies, since the internet version is much more up-to-date.
    I have 3-4,000 books as well (Pretty much run out of space).

    Nothing wrong with Amazon. I just enjoy the creature pleasure of wandering around a physical bookstore and sneaking snacks from the shelves.

    I still prefer a physical newspaper. I hate the ever-changing nature of electronic papers. not to mention the darned popup ads in the middle of the article.

    But then, I'm getting up there, yearswise. Probably a lot of my feeling is what I grew up with.

    I also like tail fins.

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    My library keeps buying new books on science. I drop in about once a month and see if they've got anything new that I haven't read yet. Just finished The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter [2008] (Good!). Just started Susskind's The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics [2008] (Looks good, and that title cracks me up!)

    The internet has no comparable facility....
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

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    I keep coming back to the physical, sensual interaction with a book and a library. Yes, like Bradbury I love the smell of books. It's as if some of the contents are inhaled as much as read. Walking into the stacks of a good library you can smell the centuries in there, waiting patiently. The very building of an older library gives a bit of faith in the continuance of civilization.

    There is the touch of a book, the different kinds of paper, from browning pulp magazines to 19th century cloth. Leather covers with moire' endpapers. A photo or engraving of the author protected by a translucent sheet.

    The Net can be a wonderful source of information. The library can be a source of wisdom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pumpkinpie View Post
    I'm very much looking forward to owning a portable digital reader (like Amazon's Kindle) but until then I will be using my library. Probably even afterward. I buy some books that I know I will want to keep and/or read again, but I'd rather borrow most of them. It seems a very green way to go! And few books are available on the internet for free. Always free at the library!
    What would be interesting is if there was a subscription service for Kindle similar to Nexflix for movies. For a flat fee of ~$19/Month you could "check out" three or four books at a time, and keep them for as long as you like. That would be a game changer, until then I think the library is safe.

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    I never quite found some items I meant to
    look up after reading some excerpts. Like
    Stephen Leacock. And some bound volumes of
    Sunday supplements from the sixties when they
    started. And a pile of Doonebury books would
    have been fun on the sunbed in a leafy garden.
    Its not libraries but old bookshops that
    provide the exciting find. And I put some
    item in the recycling bin recently about a
    neat place in Portland, Oregan. Sounds almost
    as good as Thorps in Guildford, England in
    the seventies!

    Cannot do it anymore but cycling to nearby
    towns on Summer days and coming back through
    country lanes in the evening with some bargain
    books in the saddle bag was a nice occupation
    for a few years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Actually, I have never been in a library in my life.
    Frankly, I find this reprehensible. Never? What did you do for reports in school? Surely you were in school pre-internet. In fact, more than a few of my teachers took us to the school library specifically to teach us how to do research, and the projects I did in, oh, history class required use of encyclopedias. I don't remember the first time my mother took me to a library; I was too young to remember. Perhaps that's why you don't fully appreciate bookstores. You have never developed the ability to browse properly. And for preference, browse in local bookstores, not ginormous chain bookstores. You're more likely to find books you'd never heard of and therefore didn't realize you needed.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    In several places where I used to live, there were impressively useful large, well-organized libraries which I used all the time, both for research and personal browsing. The library closest to where I live now had, up until recently, one moderately-sized room of books, not divided by subject or genre but in two groups, fiction and nonfiction, all in alphabetical order by title only, and the card catalog was listed alphabetically by author. Recently a new building has been built with room for more books and more librarians hired (or people who work there anyway, I haven't examined any credentials), but the cataloging system is still catching up (it has been transferred to computer, which has its good and bad points), there's still only two subject sections (though they've now also divided hardcover from paperback), and it's still the only library in the area with more than a small compliment of books and librarians.

    What you use often depends on the quality of what's available.
    I'm a cynical optimist. I think the only way out is through, but once we get through it'll be better. Very different, but better. Howard Tayler

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    Frankly, I find this reprehensible. Never? What did you do for reports in school? Surely you were in school pre-internet. In fact, more than a few of my teachers took us to the school library specifically to teach us how to do research, and the projects I did in, oh, history class required use of encyclopedias. I don't remember the first time my mother took me to a library; I was too young to remember. Perhaps that's why you don't fully appreciate bookstores. You have never developed the ability to browse properly. And for preference, browse in local bookstores, not ginormous chain bookstores. You're more likely to find books you'd never heard of and therefore didn't realize you needed.
    During school days? To get information, my parents had the Encyclopedia Brittanica at home. When we had to to a book report on a particular book, it was sold at school. As a kid, I used to haunt all the used book shops in the area to build up my own personal library.
    But never a library. Maybe, because where I grew up in L.A., there was no library in the vicinity.

    I have stopped going to bookstores since about 6-7 years ago, because I find Amazon much better.

    Browsing? I used to spend hours in bookshops browsing, then I returned to Europe and good English bookshops were few and far between in Zurich. If I were living in London, I certainly would still be going to bookstores. Here, I am cut off... Though equally fluent in German and Italian, I only read for enjoyment in English.
    Last edited by gzhpcu; 2009-Mar-30 at 08:00 PM. Reason: clarification

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    Our local libraries also have great public meeting rooms.

    I go to the library for opera preview talks, for meetings of the local Audobon society, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pumpkinpie View Post
    I'm very much looking forward to owning a portable digital reader (like Amazon's Kindle) but until then I will be using my library. Probably even afterward. I buy some books that I know I will want to keep and/or read again, but I'd rather borrow most of them. It seems a very green way to go! And few books are available on the internet for free. Always free at the library!
    Yes. That is one of the pluses I see for libraries - it allows those with lesser means to have access to the same information.

    I think the next gen Kindle runs something like $350 and the electronic books for the unit, which used to be about $10 each, are now more. At that price you can almost buy new paperbacks.

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    The secondhand shop is not the same as a library, but just as treasured, for different reasons. I walk into one and think, "Surprize me!"

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    In the age of the Internet, of what use is a library?

    In the age of CDs, of what use is a concert hall?

    In the age of television, of what use is a theater?

    In the age of cars, of what use are feet?

    In the age of McDonalds, of what use is a kitchen?

    In the age of Wii, of what use is a sports team?

    In the age of the Hubble telescope, of what use is space travel?

    In the age of creationism, of what use is an education?

    In the age of internet pr0n, of what use is a partner?

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    Are you trying to say something kleindoofy?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    During school days? To get information, my parents had the Encyclopedia Brittanica at home. When we had to to a book report on a particular book, it was sold at school. As a kid, I used to haunt all the used book shops in the area to build up my own personal library.
    But never a library. Maybe, because where I grew up in L.A., there was no library in the vicinity.
    Congratulations on having a lot more money than I did as a child--than I do now. When I was in school, if the report was on a specific book, the school itself loaned out copies, because not everyone could afford to buy them; I suspect this is true in huge amounts of Los Angeles, too. There are also currently 68 branches of the Los Angeles Public Library system, and I will guarantee you that your school had a library as well. Besides, my teachers required more than just reference.

    I have stopped going to bookstores since about 6-7 years ago, because I find Amazon much better.
    Amazon has its uses. It's still not as good.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    . . . , my parents had the Encyclopedia Brittanica at home.
    Wow. In my neighborhood that would have made your family the richest family on the block!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tucson_Tim View Post
    This statement was made in Gillian's thread on what everyone should know.

    Now, I haven't been to a library in ages but I have to believe that there are still invaluable resources there, besides the ability to check out several books (for free) and take them home and read them. Just the ability to grab a handful of books off the shelf and read passages from each is a difficult thing to do on the web. I think libraries will have a purpose for many years to come. What do you think?
    Well said, Sir.
    And if you ask anyone, they are likely to say that there is nothing like a
    book , for many reasons, as opposed to e pages on the internet.
    Quite simply, we have the luxury of both, each to it's purpose.
    Best regards,
    Dan

  30. #30
    I'm surprised that I've not seen anyone else mention the very first thing that comes to my mind when I think of a library. A library provides a quiet environment that's conducive to reading and study. Many kids simply don't have a good place to study that is quiet and free from distractions.

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