Library Shelves by Lydia Liu via Flickr

With funding for our public libraries being cut all over the country, Karisma Indra discusses why we shouldn’t let them disappear from our society.

To many of us students, libraries are the signal of looming deadlines. Visiting the university library as soon as it’s open for 24 hours, for example, you’re guaranteed to find at least one beleaguered student contemplating the destruction of either their laptop, or of the myriad of books that surrounds them. Despite this, there is much more to our libraries than just students cramming for exams and essays. As an institution, the British public libraries are currently under threat with many local councils being forced to shut down several of their branches. This is because government funding for libraries is being cut as the demand for their services seems to have reduced significantly over the past decade.

With the rise of new technologies such as Kindles and other e-readers, combined with the almost limitless resource that is the Internet, it seems possible that the usefulness of libraries to the public, has declined. Previously the libraries were an essential source of information which gave access to books and encyclopedias that could be used to find information that was not otherwise available. Furthermore, the rise of cheap e-books has meant that many choose to purchase books that they may previously have borrowed from a library. As a result, many see libraries as obsolete in the 21st century lifestyle. We want quick and easy access to information, something which the Internet is much more useful for, which is evidently why libraries have fallen out of favour with the public.

I believe, however, that libraries still have a large purpose that many tend to overlook. Libraries still have access to many different books (some of which are no longer published), and anyone can access them for free, providing that they are a member of the library. For both research purposes and recreational reading it can also feel better to have the physical book in front of you, as well as being much more useful for note-taking and actually absorbing the information than it is from a screen. From personal experience, I can safely say that borrowing the physical copies of books from a library not only makes reading them easier, but it makes it easier to bookmark pages and maybe even put sticky notes in them so that you can remember the points you had hoped to make.

Libraries are also a great way to get involved with your community. If you use e-books you are most likely having a solitary experience, but by going into a library you may be surprised to find that others may be looking at similar topics to you. Believe it or not, libraries do not exist to torture us, they exist to help us, whether for educational purposes or for delving into fictional lands and the lives of characters that exist in the pages of books. Libraries give an element of a personal touch to our reading, whether it is because another person smiled at you whilst you were browsing for a book, or because you managed to have an interesting conversation with a fellow visitor. Whilst the Internet and e-books are indeed useful, physical books and public libraries should not disappear because they are an integral part of the reading and learning experience.