Skip to main content

The End of the Public Library

I went into the library the other day to look for a couple DVDs to watch. It was strange to walk in there. There were only two cars in the parking lot -- the librarians. There were no patrons, customers.

Normally I struggle to find a DVD worth watching, despite them having hundreds to choose from. But this time I gave up after 5 minutes. As I walked out of the library I realized something quite important: that I was unlikely to ever walk into a public library again.

This was a sad thought. Why so? After all, when was the last time I walked into a brick-and-mortar travel agency, video store, gym, bookstore, aquatic center, bank, bowling alley, or movie theater? But there are no nostalgic connections to this last list of places.

With public libraries there are memories. 

  1. Helping my (librarian) mother at a small town library, and being so pleased with making a perfect impress of the due date on the label of the book.
  2. Being pleased with an unusually good library -- or even a Carnegie library -- in small cities, during my early years as a traveler. Typically there was nothing else about the town that interested me. And I didn't know anybody in town.
  3. Falling in love with a small town in Arizona because it had such a good city library that still had an old-fashioned wooden card catalog, and allowed dogs into the library!
  4. The Jimmy Buffett song about "Love in the Library."
  5. Enjoying a vacation from my usual political views by acknowledging the public library to be a cost-effective success story run by the government sector.

But now I realize that heavy consumers of media are too spoiled by all the selection of online stores to appreciate the humble offerings of the public libraries. Heavy media consumption is destined to be a larger part of life, with the Great Reset. And you don't have to wear a damn mask when you shop online.

Yes indeed, the business model of the public library is obsolete.



Ed said…
This past summer I went into the Egar/Springerville branch of the Apache County Library to donate some dead tree books and get a library card so I could download ebooks from their system. There were four 'staff' there and I was the only patron.

That was the second time that I have been inside a library since I started reading ebooks. Probably will not be in another one for years and by then they will not be open other than as museums for dead tree books.
Ed, perhaps they will be enterprising and innovative by migrating away from dead tree books and towards special-interest poetry readings or sensitivity-training workshops. There will probably be more federal grants available for such things.
Sarcasm disclosure for above.
Anonymous said…
I still enjoy and use our library. Even though it has been closed to inside patrons since march. They have "take out" service.
Still prefer books on cd over on phone. Easier. Less looking at phone. Still lament new truck doesn't have CD player. Old truck does thank god, thats what I use for trips- long miles=need books to pass hours.
Do use Hoople thru library for books and music on phone for when walking
Anonymous, I have never heard of Hoople. Is it like Overdrive? I have tried to use Overdrive a couple times.

I agree with you that discs still have a role to play, but for me that means DVD for movies or classic TV shows.
Anonymous said…
I still love libraries and physical books. That said, I’ve kept only a dozen or two of my favorites. Audiobooks are now my preferred method of enjoying a good “book”. I’ve bought some from Apple and Amazon, but mostly borrow them from the library.

Hoopla is the app that allows you to borrow titles via your library card. It’s probably different in each city, but I’m currently allowed 9 loans each month. That includes videos, audiobooks, e-books and music.

Drew, the next time I'm at a town where I have a library card, I will ask about Hoopla versus Overdrive, and how I can get more good out of them.