WSIW: Why Should I Get A Library Card?

Photo from Carol M. Highsmith, via Wikimedia Commons (Library of Congress Main Reading Room).

This was going to go up last week, but I was too busy prepping for my performance piece that was exhibited last week. Keep an eye out for photos and video about the piece soon!

This week's WSIW may be somewhat controversial, depending on the circles you are in. Why controversial? Because, when people ask “Why should I get a library card”, I'm going to say you shouldn't..

..At least, in an ideal world, you shouldn't. Please, bear with me on this before you send hate mail (or throw away your library card).

Libraries had a great amount of relevance 20 years ago; For many, it was their sole source of recent knowledge in published form. You could find books on gardening, engine repair, technology, and more. That's just in the non-fiction sections. Fiction publications were also a great source of entertainment at a library. Let's not forget about the periodical sections, too, and even cassette tapes (for the kids out there, those are what we listened to before CDs and mp3s, after vinyl and 8-tracks)

Today, you can find all of the above, plus some more interesting additions; DVDs (both fiction and non-fiction). Music CDs. The periodicals are still there, too, and may even be in digital form, searcheable via computer.

Even more exciting is that many libraries offer access through digital means outside the library; you can check out ebooks, movies, and more from the comfort of your home and never have to worry about returning them late.

Why the hate, then, for libraries? To put it simply, they're failing (like most industries) to truly grasp the age we live in, and are strangling the flow of information that's possible today.

We've got Wikipedia. We can go online and research just about everything we could want to know about. We've got Netflix. Amazon Prime. Hulu. YouTube. Newspapers online with digital archives. Podcasts. Countless great methods of consuming information and entertainment without leaving the couch.

Yet, we still seem to not be able to truly access everything the library has in any true sense.

Libraries are a publicly-funded solution to sharing everything, but they have their limitations. Physical media, while still enjoyed by many, isn't quite as usable as it is in digital form.

I believe that any and all non-fiction content in a library should be easily accessed, indexed, referenced, and more.. Without any stipulations. No library cards. No time spent searching shelves. No need to even physically go there.

Why?

Information cries out to be free, and in a world where misinformation is king, being able to say, “No, here's the exact words written, here's the retraction published 2 years later, and here's the revised book and the relevant section that was revised” without having to spend a (frankly, ridiculous) amount of time digging is what we need now.

Libraries should be a trusted repository of the world's knowledge, and shouldn't be censored, or have any barriers to access. We need that today. I'd rather my taxes go to digitizing everything and making it accessible than keeping up an antiquated system that has only barely scratched the surface of true information accessibility.

Librarians should become information specialists, not glorified bookkeepers. I'm not saying that a librarian's job is meaningless, but a large amount of time is spent maintaining an antiquated system.

What about the elderly, or those who don't have access to the internet?

We already have something in place for that. Libraries have computers. Libraries have classes that assist people not familiar with technology. All we'd be doing is removing the exceedingly overwhelming space utilized by traditional media and making room for more computers and people.

As well, change is inevitable. Why wait for the old-world to leave us? Let's bring the old-world into the new-world.

The only realistic argument against digital media is that, should we have a massive technological failure, it might become inaccessible.

That's fine. I'm not saying destroy the books; Just don't rely on them so much. Let the current library system be privatized for those who choose to use it. Sell the books. Give them away. I don't care.

The only concern I have is that the world needs information. Let's make it accessible to all.