What is a library? Not a building, or a collection of "media", or a reference shelf, or a check-out system, or a trained staff of researchers ... but all and none of these.
A library is an idea --- the idea of preserving and sharing knowledge. Libraries offer a quiet place for serious thought, deep meditation on important problems. Libraries offer selected resources to nourish the thinker, and leisurely access to the learning of the world. Speed is of minimal relevance. A screen of flashy images fetched in a second has little to contribute for a subject that demands months or years of study.
In modern society, libraries have become invisible, like air; and like air, libraries are seldom noticed except in their absence. A library is a luxury in the short term --- just as the Research Department is for a corporation that doesn't look past the next quarter's sales figures, or as education is for a country that focuses its creative energies on entertainment. Libraries are superfluous; we can do without them. We can also do without wisdom and meaning in our lives. For a while, anyway.
Tuesday, December 14, 1999 at 06:06:53 (EST) = Datetag19991214