The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

With the advent of the Internet, libraries have been viewed as institutions whose days are numbered. With all the information online, it seems archaic, almost primitive, to trudge down to the library and actually deal with physical books and card catalogues to get your research done. (Actually, I'm pretty sure card catalogues are a thing of the past at 99% of all American libraries out there). Of course, I am speaking from the perspective of the relatively affluent members of our society; there are plenty of people who can't afford a home computer, home Internet access, maybe even a home phone, and so the library is their primary source for research and information (including, almost ironically, Internet access).

Even before the spread of the Web, libraries had to do a lot with only a little funding from the government. Now, they have do the same with even less. They rely very much on donations of all kinds. As it happens, the Web is proving to be an unexpected facilitator in getting some libraries their most basic commodity: Books. Such is the example of the Oakland Public Library, which has seen its Amazon Wish List of books fulfilled for it by what amount to donors.

It's a nice feel-good story. I'll ignore the specter is raises of giving local governments an added excuse to cut funding back even more, to the point where librarians and non-book equipment can't be covered.

As I said, a nice idea. As suggested by some of the feedback, it'd be ideal for people who want to contribute to this to do it for their local libraries, instead of one thousands of miles away (although that's good too). Maybe every gol-darn library in the country can get on board, and a whole system will develop! Hopefully, it'll never be marred by something like a dumb librarian putting a book that she wants to keep on it; think of the scandal and fallout!

I see my city's library's not on the ball enough to have set up a Wish List. Neighboring St. Pete Beach Library is, but it has only one book on there right now, and it's out of print. Across the Bay, Tampa's public library doesn't seem to have one either. So much for my trying to donate at the present! I cleared out my home bookshelves a while back, too, so nothing to donate there.