Library old and new-A A +A
Saturday, August 24, 2013
MY early readings were not in public libraries, I wasn’t allowed to move around the city without company or I’d get lost. In school, there was not enough time outside of the class hours to hang around the school library unless there was research needed in a class assignment. So I began the habit of reading under the influence of a lawyer parent and his small library.
Father had a lot of books with detective stories of a heroic character the lawyer author Erle Stanley Gardner created—Perry Mason, a defense attorney. Gardner published 82 series of the Mason stories (in a newspaper, then in book form). Perry Mason was the defense attorney and hero in all the Mason series. Then, as technology developed, in the late ‘50s came out the Perry Mason TV series.
You’d wonder what happened to the book reading habit of Gardner fans after the TV series.
While developments all around the world are high-speed, the latest technological advance blasts into our lives. If you want a quiet place and a slow corner in the city, try a visit to the library for quiet reading of books and magazines. That is, while the library as we know it is still there.
Each one of us has memories of the old habits of library visits, especially when we were younger—like in some short trips to the library in a week. But this was surely true only in the case of cities and towns where there was a public library.
A blogger protesting the changes in libraries look back with thanks to memories of the house of books. “I discovered me in the library,” she said. It was good to read books and get the feel of hardcovers.
But these are old memories of libraries with no access to the Internet and no e-books, even while big publishers now are giving in to e-technology, like the Random House, which is now publishing ebooks (or variously, e-books, e-Books, eBooks).
They’re now talking of bookless libraries and you hear voices which are for the changes and those who regret it, “No, no, no!” I’ve read articles regarding libraries turning bookless and I see lonely pictures of empty book shelves in the process of change.
Slowly and quietly, change in the library, as we know it, is here. But how thorough is it?
In the U.S., things are changing in libraries, even affecting the production of permanent book paper. A university library in North Carolina, the Hunt Library, is bookless. It has 50 computer stations, 150 e-readers, 25 laptops, 25 tablets.
In a public library in California, even just the talk of change was met with protests. The service director said, “Everyone went berserk!”
But change could go further, the new library could include not just the use of a reading room but also video rentals, perhaps, also Internet cafes?
How about a venue for small concerts?
Those against the change see it as a disregard of vintage books, a sin committed against history. Change will come but the old aspects of the use of libraries in our life could stay, although off the center stage.
The New York Public Library will never go bookless, for one, even as it will “digitalize.” The 21 library branches in the Big Apple will continue to house libraries of old books and make these available to booklovers in the same venue as to the e-readers.
Back here, the country is still trying to go into automation even as the national libraries have already launched Philippine e-Lib so that library users can access important materials. The Cebu City Library is one of beneficiaries of the Philippine e-Lib, with three computers granted by the National Library of the Philippines. But besides the lack of funds to fully go into automation, there is, among other problems, the lack of training in technical knowledge. What has been worked on shouldn't get run down by, say, horrifying viruses.
Let the library stay on, along with the wonder of new technology.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 25, 2013.