Director’s Corner February 2018
Why the Internet needs Libraries
Have you ever heard someone say “we don’t need libraries, we have the Internet.”? I first heard words
to that effect from a library trustee in 1992; since that time though, the demand for public library
services has only grown steadily.
Here are some reasons why I believe the Internet can’t replace libraries:
1. Libraries provide a community space under responsible supervision where people can gather constructively. Too many Internet forums and/or services at present suffer from inadequate moderation, leaving their users vulnerable to trolling, bullying, and harassment.
2. Similarly, much of the content of the Web is poorly curated,
circulating, inaccurate and misleading information. Librarians can help sort legitimate facts from rumors, misconceptions, urban legends, or propaganda efforts such as the foreign-backed ads placed on social media during the 2016 elections.
3. Even when the source is trustworthy, just finding that information can be a challenge – tools like Google are certainly useful, but their interface can be overwhelming, and many people don’t know how to filter results or authenticate the source. A conversation with a librarian can
assist with this.
4. Librarians value and protect patron privacy; they will not track your reading or search history for advertising purposes, or sell your information to others.
5. The Internet may be the platform, but librarians are often doing the work. Librarians have been strong advocates for the movement to increase online access to scholarly information; such
access, often paid for by taxpayer dollars, can be critical, for instance when reporting on medical research. Library digitization projects assist with the protection of historical artifacts by providing broader access to texts without risking the physical copies. And academic libraries have become functional publishers for the work of university professors, making new work available on an open access basis.
6. Libraries provide access to live educational programs, computers, printers, copiers, scanners, and other forms of technology.
7. With the print collection, users can still read when the power is out, your computer has crashed, or the Internet is down.
8. Because your library is paid for, Libraries are an informational commons, which won’t be suddenly throttled, capped, or price-hiked.
9. Librarians are advocates for their communities’ and patrons’ interests. Look at all the stuff above! The Internet is great, but it can’t fight for you – indeed, you notice how much we, as Americans, have to fight to protect the Internet from predatory interests (everything from harassers and bullies to foreign propaganda engines and corporate privatization efforts).
10. As part of the 99%, you may never have had think tanks or big lobby groups arguing your case directly to legislators – but you have librarians who do!
Do you have a reason why libraries are still better than the Internet?
Feel free to share.
See you at the library. – Kathy Berggren, Library Director