Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Books Media Education The Internet Technology

Can Architects Save Libraries from the Internet? 270

theodp writes "Slate has an interesting photo essay exploring the question of how to build a public library in the age of Google, Wikipedia, and Kindle. The grand old reading rooms and stacks of past civic monuments are giving way to a new library-as-urban-hangout concept, as evidenced by Seattle's Starbucks-meets-mega-bookstore central library and Salt Lake City's shop-lined education mall. Without some dramatic changes, The Extinction Timeline predicts libraries will R.I.P. in 2019."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can Architects Save Libraries from the Internet?

Comments Filter:
  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:20PM (#22618082) Journal
    Since I started my studies, I spent exactly 0 hours and 0 minutes in the university libraries. I access all the scientific material online, and even the books. Those very few books that I could not find in electronic form online (and by online I mean in our university's electronic library) and I could not do without, I bought them. But the idea of walking into the library, borrow a book and then return in in one week, it just feels impractical at this point, to me.

    For antique books, sure, libraries will always exist, but even there I'd prefer to see them as conservation points where they are transferred into electronic format(s) made available online. Being an antique book collector myself, I would hate to know that precious antique books are being touched by people who don't wash their hands, or worse.

    So basically, I don't think libraries have much reason to exist in their current form. Perhaps something like a public study-and-discussion place, with refreshments and internet access?
    • by mdd4696 ( 1017728 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:31PM (#22618178)
      I am a Computer Engineering student graduating this spring and I have spent many hours in the library. Many books I use are available electronically but I prefer to have the actual paper version because I find them easier to read and easier to search through. Also they do not have the multitude of distractions (IM, games, websites) that are on my laptop, which is very nice when I'm studying.

      I like going to the library just to browse and to see what I can find. I would be quite sad if libraries were to disappear.
      • by irtza ( 893217 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @07:01PM (#22618376) Homepage
        As another who has spent a considerable amount of time in a library, I do find that there is room for improvement. I don't think that they will be gone anytime soon, but I think that a large part of the problem has to do with financing. My university library (undergrad) was only a place for me to study. I NEVER USED IT TO DO RESEARCH. Furthermore, in medical school, the library served the exact same purpose. On the flip side, as a medical resident, I used the hospital library extensively. Why? I am not going to pay to get access to articles my library can get me. That is the only reason I used it. I was doing research and it required me to get access to things I couldn't otherwise pay for.

        Growing up, I used the library to be able to freely read books.

        I think this remains the fundamental and most important role of a library. Equalizing access to information that the public could not otherwise get to. Sure, as a professional, I can afford to pay for things, but it seems that costs are proportional. The specialized texts I want now are considerably more expensive than the texts I had wanted earlier.

        As long as there is an underclass, the role of a library will remain important. Given trends in society, the underclass is growing and the divide between those with access to information will only further it. Granted most people with access to resources don't use it, but every now and then it will make a huge difference.

        Furthermore, one has to consider the library in question. A community library serves a very different purpose than a university library. I think that a community library would be better off avoiding trying to provide large amounts of space towards computers. Should they have them? Yes, its important to provide a complete set of services for those who may not otherwise be able to have them.

        What needs to be done to ensure the relevance of libraries? How about longer hours? With changing work schedules, knowing that the library will be open would be useful. I hate having to leave an hour after arrival because the place is going to close. How about an in library mirror of the Gutenberg free text collection to ensure availability despite loss of internet connectivity. Libraries have been known as warehouses of information; just because the data is digital, this should not change.

        Printing services for this information. How about being able to select a text from the Gutenberg (or other) online collection and paying X dollars to have a copy printed and bound in some fashion for pickup. This can be both a revenue generating and role preserving improvement to a library.

        A coffee shop. I think that Barnes n' Noble have done more to "hurt" libraries than any other place. They're open longer and I can drink some coffee.... Its a huge improvement.

        Club meetings - chess, reading - local competitions for the kids. There are many services that can be provided through a library that many libraries have already adopted.

        My main request would be that they mirror important literary texts locally. Given the questionable and temporary quality of electronic media, its important to have as many copies distributed as widely as possible.

        done ranting... need to find another task to avoid reading.
        • by SacredByte ( 1122105 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @07:56PM (#22618746)
          I agree on public libraries needing longer hours. The hours of my local library are as follows:

          Monday - Thursday 9:30 AM - 9:00 PM

          Friday 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM

          Saturday 9:30 AM- 5:00 PM

          Sunday 1:00 - 5:00 PM
          These hours absolutely suck for me. I don't generally go to the library at any time other than late evenings/weekends. I can fully understand not having all departments open at all times -- All I really need is to be able to check out books. That takes maybe (tops) five library staff members (paid or otherwise). I can fully understand not having sufficent funds to operate all departments at 100% at all hours, but this doesn't mean you can't operate some departments without operating other departments....

          Honestly, the library would be a much more practical place to study if they were open until 23:00 on Friday-Sunday. They don't need to staff the A/V department, they don't need to staff the reference department, they don't need to staff their computer center (they have public 802.11G) -- they just need to have a guard and a few people to handle checkouts.

          Just my $0.02 USD.
          • by leenks ( 906881 )
            Try living in the UK. For example, Cheltenham - a small town with a number of large technical organisations, a lot of wealth, and some of the countries best (or at least most exclusive) schools in the town or nearby. The library opening times:

            Opening Hours:
            Monday 9am - 7pm
            Tuesday 9am - 5.30pm
            Wednesday 9am - 7pm
            Thursday 9am - 5.30pm
            Friday 9am - 7pm
            Saturday 9am - 4pm

            And if you wanted a computer access was limited to 30 minute slots (at least it was the last time I went), which you had to pre
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by sconeu ( 64226 )
          Growing up, I used the library to be able to freely read books.

          Cue the MAFIAA saying this guy is a thief for not paying for his reading.
        • by ThousandStars ( 556222 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @08:14PM (#22618836) Homepage
          I agree with much of your comment and made similar points here [slashdot.org]. And I think the distinction you make between community vs university libraries is important because the two serve different functions, but at least in my field (English), many research resources are still in print and not available online. It's not clear if or when University Presses will start making criticism online en masse, and even if they do, so much of the twentieth century's critical output will remain in dead tree form that, at least for some, the library isn't going anywhere.
        • by kesuki ( 321456 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @08:18PM (#22618880) Journal
          personally, I'm waiting for the day when public libraries offer books in digital format.

          as someone else has said certain university libraries already do this for students.

          i live in a a small town, and they have limited library funds, virtually every magazine in the library is 'sponsored' by an individual or a company in town, and the books they buy don't tend to be in the genera i prefer. when major cities are able to digitize vast libraries of books, then rural small town libraries will be able to take advantage of this vast knowledge of wealth, by simply accessing the book that a well funded library was able to purchase for digitization, without having to buy a copy of their own.

          even if you can only access these books online at that local library, all I'd have to do is get a cheap wireless enabled laptop, plug into the library's power, and read books as long as i wanted. (if you use their computers your time is limited, but not if you use their wi-fi)

          even if they locked up the digital books with drm and such, this would vastly improve access to books in rural America. instead of having to go on a wait list to ship the book from a library that is in partnership with your local library, you could just download it. basically instead of your local library having 10 or 20 thousand books on hand with maybe 200,000 thousand on inter library loan you could download and read one of millions of books... bandwidth is way cheaper than the gas to do Interlibrary loans.

          and yeah since it could be used on library owned pcs, then yes it would be accessible to even the poorest Americans. i think that ultimately its the best way for libraries to go. having to keep books on hand is costly, even if people donate books to libraries, many public libraries are too small to shelve many books. this takes away the problem of how to give people more access to reading materials without having to store them all, or to have to build brand new libraries in many counties that don't have the cash for it...

          best of all, if it's electronic you don't need to 'return' it, although if they have drm policies you may need to prove that the file was deleted... i don't really care about that, it would make me very happy to learn i could read all sorts of books people have recommended, or that i thought i might want to read...without having to wait a week for an interlibrary loan and then have to return it a week later...
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            Here in scenic and beautiful Tennessee, we have a program like this. It's called "READS" link [tnla.org]. They have a lot of the classics and a better than average selection of audiobooks.

            ... And there is always project Gutenberg. (sp)
        • Equalizing access to information

          This is the point of a library, and there should not be a single comment on this article that ignores it. The beauty of a public library is that anyone--anyone AT ALL--has access to information. The Internet is great, but when you deprive poor people of access to information (by shutting down libraries), you're doing them a huge disservice.
        • As long as there is an underclass, the role of a library will remain important. Given trends in society, the underclass is growing and the divide between those with access to information will only further it. Granted most people with access to resources don't use it, but every now and then it will make a huge difference.

          Given that there will always be an "underclass", in that there will always be some people who will be better/worse off than others, you're saying public libraries will be relevant in perpetu
          • by irtza ( 893217 )
            well, you made two points, so here is my response

            1) about the underclass.

            as long as there is an underclass that does not have equal access to the public wealth of information. We may not have as many people with kwashiorkor in this nation, but it doesn't mean we don't have an underclass that would benefit from a public house of information. An underclass with respect to information is critical in a society where access to food is not a concern. Having a means to sidestep class barriers has been the singl
      • by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @08:44PM (#22619060)

        Hi, I'm a librarian.[1] I appreciate your response, and I'm glad you find us useful. I'd just like to elaborate on one of your points. You wrote "I like going to the library just to browse and to see what I can find." (Emphasis added). This is one point where physical libraries still have a distinct advantage over the Internet.

        People who are trying to retrieve information have three basic types of queries.

        1. They know exactly what they're looking for. (A "known item" search, e.g. "I want a transcript of the Obama-Clinton debate from Austin last week", which results in one document).
        2. They know roughly what they're looking for. (A "known class" search, e.g. "I want to read essays on Kierkegaard's philosophy", which results in a reasonably well-defined group of documents).
        3. They don't have a clear idea what they're looking for. (Called "browsing," e.g., "I'd like to learn about world history.", which results in a vastly huge set of documents that might potentially meet the need).

        The Internet is pretty good for known-item searches. Especially if the item has indexable text in it. Other types of information are harder. Quick! Using Google Images, find me a picture of a sheep facing left at sunset.

        The Internet is less good at delivering focused results for a known class search. It can retrieve relevant documents, but there's a good chance that it will also retrieve lots of unrelated or only tangentially related things. Which means you have to spend ages sorting through a giant list of search results to find what you really want. Specialized databases tend to produce much more focused results, of course, but most of those aren't freely available.

        And lastly, the Internet is lousy for browsing. Browsing is about finding out what's available within a very broad class of stuff. Search engines can tell you that documents share keywords; they can't tell you for certain that the documents are actually about similar things. And within the search results, they're organized according to (roughly) how popular they are, as measured by how many sites link to them. They're not organized based on their similarities to or differences from one another. Compare to a library, where you can start at the beginning of a shelf and scan the titles. Because librarians have invested a TON of time and effort into classifying the books, you can count on finding many documents about the same topic stored in the same location. There've been efforts to classify the web, but so far nothing really good has popped up. Wikipedia helps in some ways, but it still relies heavily on searches. The contextual navigation from one article to another helps a little, but a lot of the time the articles are linked to one another simply based on the words appearing in the article rather than on whether the articles are strongly related to one another. It does promote serendipitous discovery of information, but it's not so good for finding out a comprehensive list of what's available.

        We aren't going away any time soon. Plenty of change a' comin', I reckon, but we're going to be around for a while yet.

        [1] Well, technically, I'm a librarian-in-training. Close enough, though.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pokerdad ( 1124121 )

          Quick! Using Google Images, find me a picture of a sheep facing left at sunset.

          While your point is taken, my experience in looking for items with similarily stringent requirements is that libraries aren't any better. Just to use your example, searching for "sheep facing left at sunset" on google would likely involve looking through hundreds of pages of search results with a good chance of never finding what you wanted, while searching for the same image in a library would involved flipping through hundreds of pages of books on sheep and photography with a good chance of never findin

        • Quick! Using Google Images, find me a picture of a sheep facing left at sunset.

          In about 2 minutes, I found this image [monasette.com], which could easily be mirrored to make it appear as if the sheep is facing left. I would challenge you to find the same thing in a library...

        • by ortholattice ( 175065 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @01:15AM (#22620646)
          None of the responses to the parent have brought up the following point. A library serves as a filter in a very important way: the material there was "good enough", in some way, to get published. It has filtered out untold volumes of manuscripts that weren't accepted by a publisher (other than self-published material, which is rare in a library). In addition, the library itself has filtered yet again by selecting the material (recommended by professors etc.) that it holds.

          The web OTOH has the garbage as well as the "good stuff", and many cases only the garbage since the good stuff (book contents) is usually copyrighted and not placed on the web. (Yes, Google Books can help you find some things, but you can't browse through the book.) The web has its place - a very important place - but it serves a different kind of need. Like Wikipedia, the web as a whole can be good for getting an idea of the subject matter of interest, but once you get in-depth and serious, the library becomes almost indispensable, for me at least.

          For specialized scientific and mathematical work, virtually everything I do is based on peer-reviewed publications, and I don't have expensive access to the online versions. Sometimes I can find preprints on arxiv.org, but I need the real thing for referencing in my own work, and much of it is from the 70s/80s before arxiv.org existed. And even arxiv.org is a dangerous place with crackpot theories unless you know exactly what authors/articles to look for. So yes, I spend many hours in the university library to get authoritative and reliable material that I can trust.

      • Benford's Law [wikipedia.org] deals with the likely occurrence of a particular first digit in the values in a data set. It exists because Frank Benford noticed which pages in log tables got the most wear. The pages with the ones digits were always heavily used, followed by the twos and so on, and the nines digits barely got any use at all. Hard to imagine how he would have made that particular observation on the Internet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I am the same way... I go up and down the aisles, and stop randomly, reading book titles. It's amazing the things fascinating things you would never think to google. Boat building leads to seamanship leads to hydroponics leads to farming leads to animal husbandry leads to ... Sometimes you stumble across the real gems, like the popular mechanics how-to encyclopedia, which showed how to turn a drill press into a milling machine, how to build bookshelves, airplanes, boats, entertainment centers... No, ca
    • by Naughty Bob ( 1004174 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:50PM (#22618316)
      I don't think you can get a better question than 'Can Architects Save Libraries from the Internet?', only different ones:

      Can jealousy save biscuits from a motorbike?

      Can mice protect oscilloscopes from Scientology?

      Should tardigrades steal tarte-tatin from the middle-eight of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird?

      Tune in next week, same bat-time etc. etc....
      • The answers to these four questions are Yes, Yes, Whose and Yes, respectively. How do I know that they are correct? They are just crazy enough to work.
    • by Geof ( 153857 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @07:23PM (#22618516) Homepage
      That may be true in scientific disciplines. Right now, I have about two dozen books from the university library. Only a couple of them would be available online. Intensive reading is also much easier with physical books, which I read far more than papers: one of my courses required students to read two books a week.

      University libraries are one thing; public libraries another. The local public library is very popular. Students do their homework there, access the Internet, or hang out after school. They have children's programs and other events. The building looks out over a sports field, with a view of mountains beyond: it's the sort of place people like to be. I drop by there several times a week. I borrow a lot of DVDs, but I also peruse the books. The key, I think, is that it's close by - I can walk there or drop in on my way somewhere else. If a library is integrated into the community, somewhere nearby and convenient, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't thrive. Books, movies, forums about the future of copyright, whatever - it will find a role. Unfortunately most of our communities are planned so that activities are isolated and reachable only by car. A library treated as a warehouse, to which patrons must trek to take out and return materials, is likely doomed.
    • by mollymoo ( 202721 ) * on Sunday March 02, 2008 @07:29PM (#22618544) Journal
      Your argument seems to be that because you don't have much need for them they don't need to exist. Well, I hate to break it to you, but the world doesn't revolve around you and most people aren't in your situation.

      Like most people, I'm not at university (any more), so libraries are the only access I have to a wide range of textbooks, scientific journals etc. I do buy books and the odd journal, but I couldn't hope to afford a collection even remotely close to what is on offer even at the public library, let alone the local university libraries (which the public can enter for free and join for a modest fee).

      There are a hell of a lot of people for whom libraries are the only form of access to high-quality information. The internet hasn't changed that very much, because most of the best information still costs money.
      • Wait a minute. Hold your horses: don't you think what you described is the present, without any mention of future trends? The trends are to move more and more books into electronic format, and then make available online. It doesn't take too much of a vision to see that it's going to happen.
        • by mollymoo ( 202721 ) * on Sunday March 02, 2008 @08:44PM (#22619062) Journal
          On-line != public access. The trend is to make them available on-line for a fee. My library card doesn't get me access to Safari [oreilly.com] from home and I very much doubt it ever will. I can't see on-line public libraries happening, because that would completely destroy the business of every publisher which would result in far, far fewer books being written. Nobody wants that to happen. Perhaps all the books will be electronic, but you'll still have to go to the library to access them, because the library's terminals will have access to the electronic copies and the subscriptions.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Lijemo ( 740145 )
            Actually, quite a few public libraries do pay subscription fees for proprietary information so that you don't have to. (for instance, Boston Public Library: http://www.bpl.org/electronic/index.htm [bpl.org]) You need to either be physically in the library or logged in with your library card to access it (subscribing to the databases doesn't allow the library to make it freely available to anyone anywhere in the world on the web), but it can get you access to a lot of information that would otherwise be quite expensiv
      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Only the rich Haves hold disdain for the public library. It's "inconvenient", "Droll", even antiquated in their metro-sexual eyes.

        Yet for the 80% of the population that does not have a disposable income to browse their local B&N and sip a $6.95 latte, The public library is the fountain of knowledge and education they have free access to. The rich dont like to go places that are public. The bookstores are like a club as you have to have lots of money to shop there With the average price of a b
    • by Rogue Haggis Landing ( 1230830 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @07:37PM (#22618610)
      Since I started my studies, I spent exactly 0 hours and 0 minutes in the university libraries. I access all the scientific material online, and even the books.

      FWIW, your experience is not entirely typical right now, because the sciences are well ahead of the other fields of study in terms of online material. A lot of this is because there is so little use in most sciences for older material (i.e., an paper on Shakespeare from 1950 might still be relevant, a biology study from then almost definitely won't be). So if there are only the last 10 years online that's just great, especially to someone like a medical student who won't (or shouldn't) look at much with a copyright date more than 5 years old. Another factor is that science publishing has become extremely centralized, especially journals. So when Elsevier went online, a huge percentage of medical journals are suddenly electronic. Finally, the article really talks about public libraries, which don't really have the same function as a university library, and certainly don't have the same resources. A university library can pay licensing fees for it's 10-50,000 students and employees; the Chicago Public Library probably has less funding and potentially millions of people who could use it, making licenses much more difficult.

      For antique books, sure, libraries will always exist, but even there I'd prefer to see them as conservation points where they are transferred into electronic format(s) made available online. Being an antique book collector myself, I would hate to know that precious antique books are being touched by people who don't wash their hands, or worse.

      Ha! I work at an archive cataloging American books published between 1750 and 1920. I wash my hands regularly after handling them, but it's more to get me clean than the books, because 19th century texts, especially if they were bound in leather, just shed crap all over everything. As for storage and transfer, that clearly is the future. A lot of libraries will go from being what are called "dim" archives (with things physically accessible, but closely controlled) to being "dark" archives (things stored offsite, or at least away from patrons and accessible in a matter of days and not minutes), at least for older/rarer/valuable material.

      BUT, and this is a big but, librarians will tell you that there is not yet a tried-and-true method for electronic storage. The world is full of old storage media that are basically unreadable. What can we put things on that will still be good in a few hundred years? Or will there be some sort of reliable upgrade method? And are we really going to trust someone like Google to effectively be the repository of the world's knowledge?

      Another issue is that of storing physical things. Libraries work right now as basically distributed storage. No library is encyclopedic, but if you can look at all of them (through something like OCLC's WorldCat) then you can find most everything. If, as we assume, the number of libraries storing physical things goes down, then it becomes more likely that the last remaining copies of a lot of texts are going to disappear. We can argue if this is a bad thing or not, but it definitely needs to be considered.
      • I don't think your post was meant to argue mine (correct me if I'm wrong).

        Washing your hands before handling antique books is important, though. You seem to imply that you don't do that? And as for the leather shedding: I guess you're talking about red rot. There are consolidants that can help stop its degradation (SC6000/Klucel). What do you guys use for leather bindings affected by red rot?

        While I'm at it: what do you do with books/paper affected by foxing??

    • Libraries should still keep books, dvd's, cd's etc... all that is great.

      But they should begin to digitize the stacks and keep it stored on an easy to access medium. Being able to search the entire stack for terms within all the digitized books would be teh most golden research tool evar. Invest in large LCD screens for purely research purposes - no porn allowed on the super-mega big screens. If access to the crazy computer terminals begins to be in extremely high demand, simply provide time limits for us
  • by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:21PM (#22618088)
    The Extinction Timeline is total garbage. "Mending things" and repair shops are going to be extinct in 2009? Laughable. Secrets and text based searching, and the computer mouse by 2020?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by amccaf1 ( 813772 )
      Agreed. Half of the stuff on the so-called Extinction Timeline looks like it was put on there to a) cause controversy b) be silly and light-hearted.

      Land-line telephones gone by 2011? Can anyone see that happening?

      Retirement? Gone before 2020? What does that even mean? We're going to pull people out of nursing homes and stick them back into their factory jobs?

      Lunch will be gone by 2030?

      The phrase "thank you" will be gone by 2013? Are they anticipating us all switching over to LOLCAT talk by then and en
      • by amccaf1 ( 813772 )
        I just noticed that according to this timeline, Swiss Army knives went extinct in 2001. So, er, what's this [swissarmy.com], then?
        • Tim Leatherman killed the Swiss Army knife 25 years ago.
        • I thought they were did. Everyone I know who carried a Swiss Army Knife has moved on to Leatherman tools by now... maybe you're just old-fashioned? :)
      • Buckteeth by 2021? Is Great Britain getting nuked?

        The one that got me was waistlines disappearing in 2025.

        Does this mean everyone becomes supersized lardos? To me, that just means they've got HUGE waistlines.

        Or does it mean everyone gets "right-sized" - which means the disappearance of Americans, fat Canadian snowbirds on Florida beaches, etc ...

        And "Thank you" disappearing by 2012? No thanks.

        Text-based search disappearing in a decade? So all those html-based web pages will vanish?


      • It gives the so called, self appointed 'technologists' something to do other than produce any useful work.

        Here is my prediction: By 2020 people will finally get sick of these self appointed prophets and will hook them up to the Matrix to use as power sources.
      • 'Futurists' is listed on that timeline, so I'm pretty sure that the whole thing's mostly a joke (along with the footnote of "Not to be taken too seriously")

        At least these people have finally stopped predicting Fidel Castro's death to lessen the extent by which they make fools out of themselves.

        (It also lists us simultaneously plunging ourselves into a second dark age and finding the cure to all disease a few years later, which would be somewhat unlikely)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by snarkh ( 118018 )
      Lists of predictions by 2050. Not bad.
    • No More Mouse (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Layth ( 1090489 )
      I think the mouse is already outdated.
      My webcam should be tracking my eyes, and know exactly where I am trying to click.

      Just transfer the left / right mouse buttons & scroll wheel onto the keyboard and I can stop moving my hands!
      Seriously, does no one else think it's impractical we have to keep taking our hands off the keyboard?
    • by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @07:38PM (#22618624)

      The Extinction Timeline is total garbage.
      Yes it certainly is, and it appears to have been created by "some guy". If he has any academic qualifications and credibility it's not immediately obvious. I have the sense that the blog hosting the Timeline is written by someone who looks like he has all the credibility of an NLP snake-oil positive motivation seminar leader.

      I strongly suspect sock-puppetry is somewhere at the root of this "article".
    • Mending Things (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Blancmange ( 195140 )
      I concur. The availability of cheap, good quality, sophisticated and powerful tools makes it even more rewarding to build and mend stuff these days.

      That the Internet provides inspiration for D.I.Y. projects is a big factor, too. Sometimes, I'm inspired by the World Wide Web to go to a library, even. Having library services available on the Web makes using a real library all the more worthwhile.

      I think calling the Extinction Timeline garbage is an understatement. Sometimes I can make cool stuff out of garbag
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I like "Coins" in 2033. Do they mean physical money? Because governments would love to ditch paper money, which wears out and needs to be replaced really frequently, with coins. So I assume that the paper money would go earlier, or else they're just saying some random thing for no reason.

      I think copyright (2020) would have to go before libraries (2019), because a lot of the point of libraries is getting physical copies of things you can't get electronically because of copyright.

      And "Beyond 2050: Uglyn
      • I'm pretty sure the chart is talking about all forms of physical money, which does make sense to an extent. Bits of data in a central bank have no more intrinsic value than a fiat currency, and it's a whole lot easier for that central bank to account for all of its currency.

        On the other hand, much of the rest of the first world takes a somewhat different approach to paper money than the US. The UK, EU, and Australia all use slightly higher-quality (and much better looking!) banknotes, which greatly increa
  • Quoting the summary:

    The grand old reading rooms and stacks of past civic monuments are giving way to a new library-as-urban-hangout concept
    I'm not the youngest guy here, although I'm certainly not the oldest, either :). I still love the first whiff of paper I get when walking into a library; it brings back wonderful memories of days spent reading as a child. However, I also remember the excitement I felt when my city's library (City of Decatur, GA at the time) got computer stations installed to aid in searching for materials stored on CD-ROM stacks. It was a logical extension of the library concept, and was immensely useful compared to their existing "green screen" (actually amber) lookup system or the tried-and-true card catalog system.

    I also remember the first time I dialed into a BBS and discovered volumes of reading material I could freely download... next came my first exposure to the Internet through USENET and later the WWW. My excitement grew with each new advance in information sharing. These technologies were all logical stepping stone extensions to what came before them, and enabled me to access worlds of information that simply weren't attainable before.

    Would I mourn the death of physical libraries where I can walk up and down the aisles? Yes, but for largely sentimental reasons. While the dreams a "paperless society" have largely been unfulfilled to date, the time is rapidly coming when many of the core concepts will be a reality. I'm an optimist in that I like to focus on learning about new ways to share information.
    • by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:25PM (#22618142)
      I think libraries will still need to exist. The heart of the concept exists in free (or atleast cheap) public access to information. Even if the libraries of the future turn mostly into public internet cafes, with some older multimedia and text resources stored in their original format, they will still be our libraries.
      • by RobBebop ( 947356 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:36PM (#22618212) Homepage Journal

        free (or atleast cheap) public access to information

        Libraries are funded by tax dollars.

        public internet cafes

        If this means Free internet AND Free coffee, I am in. And they should have a comfortable place to sit. And a comfortable place to discuss ideas with others.

        As silly as it sounds, the greatest thing about public libraries during my college years was the chance to privacy for my studies and meeting with course project groups.

        So, while libraries won't need to be a place to store books/information, they SHOULD be preserved as a public place to (a) find peace and quiet or (b) gather and discuss interesting issues.

        • Free for certain values of direct cost to ones self. Libraries could die and my tax return wouldn't change a bit.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by robertjw ( 728654 )
            Libraries could die and my tax return wouldn't change a bit.

            While this is probably a sad reality, this kind of thinking is definitely part of the problem with our modern tax system. Our tax returns, sales tax bills we pay on every purchase, gas tax, etc... are all impacted by thousands of government projects that don't seem to add up to that much individually. I have nothing against libraries, but if all this information could be available electronically, why are we putting tax dollars into supporting
      • I would have thought the most important role of the library is to provide a base reference.
        A place or store house of information that can be used and trusted in critical examination of other, new or debatable material. This is the reason the library become a reality in the first place.

        With the internet being so transient and flexible to so many views surely the library is more important not less important.
        Sure we can now google a subject and get a every piece every uploaded. Or consult Wikipeadia for what i
    • Thanks for posting this, as I agree with much of it. But I'd like to note that, at least in Seattle, the computer and other stations supplement rather than supplant traditional library functions. I live close enough to the Seattle central library mentioned in the article to use it somewhat regularly. The entrance off fifth street, which is the main one, has a lot of tables, some computers, free wi-fi, new/interesting book stacks that are quite low (such that you can see over them), and magazine racks. There
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:26PM (#22618148) Journal
    Netcraft confirms it!

    (sorry, just had to get it in)

    Best thing about libraries is they are quiet places to study, read, write etc. I use them for research and when I need to get away from the internet.

    So it looks like they are going to try to produce something that will be state of the art and competes with electronic media. This will be doomed from the start as technology changes so rapidly, any library built will probably be obsolete before it is finished. Probably the best thing to do is figure out a libraries strengths and play to them instead.

    my .02USD
  • by mrcdeckard ( 810717 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:28PM (#22618164) Homepage

    "education mall"? really? only a politician who is trying to line his pockets could come up with something like this.

    this has less to do with making libraries urban hangouts than subsidizing the shops that are now going into them.

    even knowledge/education is a commodity/industry in america.

    teachers will be called "knowledge technicians"

    mr c
    • I've been to the Salt Lake City library and it's absolutely gorgeous. In the corners there are small rooms with fireplaces (if you've ever been in SLC during the winter, you'll see the attraction - I've only been in the spring and autumn and I was glad of them). Most of the building is full of books, but there are also a lot of places near the windows where you can sit with a laptop and work. If I had somewhere like it locally, I'd spend a lot more time in the library.
  • by vajaradakini ( 1209944 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:30PM (#22618168)
    Yes, I get a lot of articles for my work from online journals, but sometimes (especially with older articles) they aren't scanned in and I have actually gone through stacks of old journals and dug up an article and photocopied it. Aside from this, whenever I do find an article online, I print it off if it's important and relevant enough for me to read it and then I highlight it to hell and put notes everywhere. You can't do that with pdfs (well, if you want to save it anyways) and I can't curl up on the couch, lie on my back and hold my laptop above my face for an hour while reading an article either.

    It would be terrible if we lost libraries and books. I can't imagine a generation of kids downloading books and printing them out or staring at a computer screen all day reading one. I know that when I was a kid I couldn't afford to get my own books and my parents seldom bought them for me (well, once I grew out of books they liked me to read) so the library was my salvation. I never would have gotten into a great number of authors and subjects if not for libraries.
    • You can't do that *yet* but I doubt if it'll be terribly long before you can. A touchscreen and a good program will let you take all the notes you want... an e-paper screen will let you read off a screen more comfortably and make it light enough and low power enough that you could hold it above your head to read if you liked.

      Honestly there's no inherent value to printed paper... for now it's better then a computer screen for reading books, but it's only going to improve from here. I could see a really goo
    • You can't do that with pdfs (well, if you want to save it anyways)

      Actually, you can, and yes you can save it.

      See xournal [debian.org] for an example.

  • What is it about run-of-the-mill brick-and-mortar libraries, in their current form, that offer a substantial benefit to society over online sources? I can think of dozens of drawbacks, but it's much harder for me to see the advantages.

    Just because some neo-luddite English teachers freak out at the mere sound of the word "Internet" and consider it an abomination that destroys "proper education" doesn't mean the rest of society should care. A certain amount of significant libraries (such as the Library of Con
  • Sure, they will be something different then we have today due to changing times/tech, but i don't see libraries ever going away.
  • The grand old reading rooms and stacks of past civic monuments are giving way to a new library-as-urban-hangout concept

    As opposed to the library-as-indigent-hangout concept, which has been around for decades or maybe centuries.
  • Perhaps what's called for is a book vault, in the spirit of the recently built Norwegian seed vault [wikipedia.org].

    I'm reminded of something from Max Headroom (a truly brilliant show for anyone who is not familiar with it, on par with greats like [imdb.com] Blade Runner [imdb.com] and Demolition Man [imdb.com] for its crisp and witty vision of a possible future dominated by television). In the series, nearly everyone has given up all their privacy information to the computers, of course, except for a small few who refused, a long time ago, and have

  • IANAArchitect (though I am an architecture student), but it would seem to me that decreasing relevance of the library in the urban fabric is more of a problem of programming than design, and one that is being addressed just fine already. As the Internet becomes a valid source of information and entertainment, the libraries are shifting focus, becoming more akin to public computer labs. While the appearance is different (rows of PCs instead of books), they still serve the purpose of providing free democrat
    • I am also an architecture student, not far off from getting licensed.

      Mies' design was brilliant if you look at it from a programmatic perspective. His so-called "universal space" is just that. It just so happens to be that a library program fits in the particular building shown in TFA. I have not been to this library, so this is purely speculation, but it seems that the program elements can be rearranged to deal with the changing idea of "library" just fine.

      And if the program of library becomes removed f
  • by Exp315 ( 851386 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @06:53PM (#22618332)
    A fine novel by a fine SF author (review: http://blog.wired.com/tableofmalcontents/2006/11/vernor_vinges_r.html [wired.com]) He forecasts (probably tongue-in-cheek) the end of paper-book libraries when a private company gets the contract to digitize all the remaining paper books by the equivalent of the Human Genome Project "shotgun" technique. Their quick and efficient method of digitizing is to throw multiple copies of the book into a shredder, blow the fragments down a tunnel lined with scanning cameras, and fast computers piece all the fragments together to make a 99.99% accurate representation of the original text. Naturally they are opposed by book lovers who consider this horrifying - but it's all incidental to the main story line. I love Vernor Vinge's ideas!
  • their reason for being will simply evolve

    this is even hinted at in the story summary

    we still have colisseums, we don't feed christians to lions in them. we still have public squares, we don't have gallows in them

    true, we don't really have forts with cannons and we don't have stables, but we do have military installations, and we do have garages

    so its not like the need for a public place for information storage and retrieval will go ever go away, just how it is accessed will change and evolve
    • exactly as snail mail has mostly gone the way of email (cept for critical business docs), so will libraries become rooms of servers dedicated to serving out the info to the masses. Only then one library will be able to serve, potentially, the world, whereas now and before libraries could only serve those who can visit it physically.
  • Free Education (Score:4, Insightful)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday March 02, 2008 @07:13PM (#22618438) Homepage Journal
    The death of the library is a harbinger of the death of free education.

  • If a library doesn't have what you want, they're usually networked with other libraries around the county or state, allowing you to search for books through their databases. If you find one, you can request it to be sent to your library for pick up, essentially expanding your amount of resources tenfold. It takes a little time, for sure, but it's better than searching library after library looking for the right book. That's all thanks to that whole computer networking thingamajigger people have been raving
  • by AnotherDaveB ( 912424 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @07:35PM (#22618590)
    Being able to search the library catalogue, and reserve books, online has increased my library usage. One of the handier things web access has given me.
  • > The grand old reading rooms and stacks...

    That's a library.

    > ...library-as-urban-hangout concept, as evidenced by Seattle's
    > Starbucks-meets-mega-bookstore central library and Salt Lake City's shop-lined education
    > mall.

    That isn't.
  • Just because information is transistioning from paper to electronic form doesn't mean the original mission of the library is no longer needed.

    If we find that people seem to be getting dumber, libraries are partially to blaim since they haven't stuck to their original mission.

    Libraries are meant to lift up the community. To push knowledge into the dark corners that exist everywhere, not just in the minds of the poor. Funded by tax revenue, they increase the buying power of the average citizen and lower t

  • In my area, most of the people coming to public libraries are there for the internet access.  It's kinda the public tranportation of tech.

    I think the idea is a winner.
  • Disclaimer: I recently turned half a century old, and yes, I'm feeling every day of it...

    You know, some people like those "grand old reading rooms and stacks of past civic monuments." That's why I go to a library. If I wanted to go to an "urban hangout," I'd go to an "urban hangout." (Which I don't, cos everyone there is younger, slimmer, richer, and better-looking than me.) I revel in the musty and anachronistic atmosphere of a traditional library -- it's a nice, quiet, relaxing environment that links me

  • The first library shown in the Salon piece should be torn down. No question about it. There are a lot of architectural disasters [wikipedia.org] from the 60s that deserve the same fate. A library should be aesthetically pleasing, and functional. (Why is the functionalist design so dysfunctional?)

    Public libraries should start to go under. Why does every single city or town need it's own public library? Here in the metro Boston area there is a library or branch library for every mile (at least). It simply isn't necess
  • ... as long as men need some place to go for anonymous gay sex with winos who need two bucks for a 40 oz.
    Or so I hear.
  • by mschuyler ( 197441 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @09:02PM (#22619172) Homepage Journal
    I believe I've written that myself, but I don't believe it. All public libraries do is get busier and busier. When they put terminals in place for the public they get mobbed. The terminals are busy all-day-long. There are never enough. Free WiFi is also busy all day long. these aren't all the 'information disenfranchised' who don't have computer at home either. Whether they have to compete with siblings at home, or find the library more convenient, or enjoy greater bandwidth (The local lib has fiber optic) I don't know. I just know they are busy.

    Someone said the online resources are never used and are there to make administrators feel good?? How ignorant! Statistics show double digit increased use every year, from live homework help to academic magazine indexes, you can't get that at home without a subscription. Instead, the library pools its resources and buys subscriptions for the entire community. That's what government SHOULD do, leverage your taxes rather than simply tell you what to do. The average Return on Investment of a public library is over 800%, i.e.: If you had to purchase the information that a library gives out every year year and compare the purchase cost to the library budget (paid by taxes), you'd pay 8 times as much for the same thing. In my state the average cost to a homeowner for their local public library is about 25 cents per thousand dollars of value. In other words, a $400,000 house costs you $100 per year for the public library, less than $10 a month. What's that? Three lattes? It's not like the library breaks your taxpaying back. Look to the public schools for that. The library is flat out the best deal the taxpayer has, period.

    Someone once described the Internet as a library with all the books dumped at random in the middle of the floor. What makes the library different is an organized body of knowledge with people assigned to help you. The people in public libraries generally have a Master's degree in Librarianship, and in academic libraries a second masters degree in their subject area. These folks are more familiar with your subject than you are and they've been doing database searches since well before you were born.

    If you're one of these people who believe 'well-educated' means being able to search Google, read a blog, and search Wikipedia, then may God have mercy on your soul.
  • I don't think it's very likely that libraries will be done with by 2019. Take the British Library for example, it would take much longer than 11 years to digitise their assets. Of course, if by "library" they mean places where you can read the newest bestsellers, then yes, we can all see the trend... but don't expect libraries (especially the older and bigger ones) to close their doors just yet...
  • The internet has conquered many traditional sources of information, but books are not one of them. There are articles, blogs, comments, old-style web pages, and the occasional long essay, but only the very best reach the quality level of even a moderately good book, and almost none of them approach the length. If you want to seriously study any field, you either read a book, take a class (but guess where your professor learned most of that stuff?), or spend years figuring things out on your own. The interne
  • 1. It is much more difficult for a nefarious entity (be it a government agency, a political opponent, an underhanded corporation) to "edit" to data with the printed page as opposed to the internet. 2. Information does not accidentally get deleted after 30 days with a bound book. 3. Have you ever held a rare book in your hands? Touched the history? See the margin notes from hundred of years ago? Marveled at the hand colored pictures? Can't do that with the internet.
  • Libraries are more like museums now. And the people who use them are part of the display.

    With the internet, not only are libraries inefficient, but they are also a huge waste of time and resources for those who maintain them.

    1) They provide educational resources for the community
    In a very local, expensive, and analog way, yes. Today's kids are beyond that. And you cannot cut educational funding and argue for libraries at the same time if it is for education.

    2) They provide a relaxing atmosphere for people t
  • by Darth_brooks ( 180756 ) <clipper377&gmail,com> on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:07AM (#22620154) Homepage
    Saying "the internet" will make libraries obsolete is like saying "tools" will make factories obsolete. The internet has allowed even the smallest libraries near-instant access to information they'd never have dreamed of having even ten years ago.

    Say you're Brock Sampson and you need a copy of the Chilton's repair guide for your '69 Dodge Charger, since your copy was destroyed when the Guild of Callamitous Intent assaulted the Venture Compound. Used to be there was no way in Hell a local library would have something that specific. Maybe a book on general auto repair, but no way you get detailed info. If you were really lucky, maybe you could mail-order a copy from somewhere, get it in 4-6 weeks. Now, even the smallest library can have access to *every single Chilton's manual every published.* EVER. Every revision, every edition. Not only that, but the authors/publishers are properly compensated for their work, and not one tree had to die.

    (and yes, you could probably buy the Chilton's guide through Amazon, eBay, etc, get it overnighted. That still doesn't trump free (nothing out of pocket) and instant.)

    Even if that particular library doesn't have access to the data pimps....er....publisher's databases, the inter-library loan system has advanced to a point the local librarian can tell you if any library in the state / region / sometimes nation has a copy, or if the copy is available and probably get it to you within a few days.

    The internet has "answers", Libraries have reference materials, sources, and most of all hard data. Digitization is nothing but a boost to libraries and Librarians. (Real Librarians anyway. Not bespectacled old bitties with their hair in a bun, a pocket full of "Shush", and an axe to grind because someone took away their perfectly good card catalog and replaced it with a solitaire machine.)

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.