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Are libraries truly necessary?

Published: Thursday, May 8, 2014 2:10 p.m. CDT
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(Photo provided)
Dan Powers is director of the Lyons Public Library.

I have mentioned in the past that I have friends who tell me that the world no longer needs libraries, because today we have Yahoo and Google, and so on and so forth. Then, I proceed to explain to them about all of the benefits of public libraries, such as educational and job searching tools, programs, books, movies, Internet access, and, again, so on and so forth. All of this talk set me to thinking on an even deeper level. 

There are a lot of libraries out there, and the libraries are dynamic; they are changing and growing and keeping up with the world’s demands. The libraries of today are not the same sleepy establishments that the world knew 50, 20, or even 10 years ago. Instead, libraries maintain their relevance in society by understanding innovative and current trends. 

There are actually a number of libraries that are truly considered to be great libraries. These libraries are becoming even greater over time, regardless of how electronic our world moves. One of the best of the great libraries is the New York Public Library, which has a lion, the king of the jungle, as its symbol. The NYPL, just like the Chicago Public Library and other big city libraries, literally, serves millions of patrons each year. Other great libraries include institutions of higher learning such as Harvard, Yale, University of Illinois, Northwestern and a vast number of other large college libraries. Great libraries also include those that cater to antiquities from around the world. 

While not necessarily considered to be in the category of great libraries, each president of the United States has a library. The White House has a library. McDonald’s has a library. Argonne National Laboratory has a library. Law offices, private collectors, villages, prisons and a myriad of other entities all have libraries. By the way, even Google has a library.

So all of this begs questions, such as: If libraries are no longer needed because of the likes of Google and Yahoo, then why do so many institutions still have and maintain libraries? Why do cities pay millions of dollars to lure presidential libraries? Why do libraries such as the University of Illinois maintain, literally, millions of volumes of materials? 

Maybe the answer to all of those questions is: Because libraries are still, and always will be, important!

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