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The future of reading and libraries

by Ruth Aine - 07 February 2014

I grew up reading Nancy Drew, CS Lewis [The Chronicles of Narnia] and Enid Blyton books. I was always fascinated by the way the stories were written. But also I wondered how come my life was so boring and yet these characters, young as I was were so full of drama and adventure. Books helped me to retreat to my small little world where I built dreams and hopes of my own. For a long time, they were my pass time. In High School, I read Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins the novel series created by Francine Pascal. They introduced me to what being a teenager meant. All these books I found in the school library. I usually borrowed and returned after a while and in primary school, each book I borrowed from the library, I returned with a book report. Sometimes I sat in a library for hours reading from there because it was quieter and the ambiance great.

 

As I grow older I realize that the books have become more technical and less fascinating. I read to get information for a project I am working on or to pass an exam. After that the books are long forgotten. Once in a while I will get me a nice book and will struggle to read it till the end. And this is not because it is boring but because I realise, I would rather be browsing online looking up archives and scores of articles talking about the 'now' than hold a book in my hands.

And I wonder: What is the future of reading books and of libraries?

Information used to be stored in literature, some in hymns and writing exercises. Today I do not know how many churches apart from the cathedrals, which people are not going to sing hymns. Instead w have short choruses with 2 line refrains that we keep repeating. A normal hymn has about 5 verses each with 5 lines, and therein lies a story. But we do not use these any more.

Information used to be stored in textbooks. But now it is wikipedia. For some it is the only library that they will ever know. Because they have grown up watching ad playing video games on ipads. That is what is familiar. So how do you hand a book to someone like this for them to read? It is okay that some of these books can be found on kindles and in the archives and libraries created online. But the truth is that some books will never make it to a virtual library. This means that some information however important will get lost.

We can no longer look to book reading experience in libraries as ultimate. We have to think about the various ways in which we can present and interact with information. And this is not just going to a library.

As futurist Thomas Frey says: “People who in the past visited libraries to find specific information are now able to find that information online. The vast majority of people with specific information needs no longer visit libraries. However, others who read for pleasure for example still regularly patronize their local library.”

When was the last time you stepped into a library? I will be honest with you: Wikipedia does it for me. Being online has made it easy. The first thing I do when I get into a new place even before I eat, is find out whether I can get internet. And while once in a while I get a book to read, it is mainly for the experience which I still long for.

Thomas Frey recommends some things for people that are like me who no longer want to go to a library, cannot find the time or prefer to do their reading online

  • Experiment with creative spaces. These are becoming the new libraries. They include; Art studios, Blogger stations, Technology hubs etc.
  • Preserve the memoirs of your community. How, you may ask. By taking them to the library. Soon libraries will be used to conserve culture. That way, people will start using them more, again.
  • Invest in and embrace new technology. There are so many products for library users that are being produced. And lots of people may not know how to get around some of these products. You having tried them could recommend and advise on what is easier to use and what is not. That way, you are becoming a resource.

But most importantly, keep reading. Find time for a good book. Not just because you need to, but because there is so much in being able to experience a good book. That way, you will be saving the library. You will have a library of your own.

 

Ruth Aine Tindyebwa
Blogger/Online Communications

Read her personal blog; IN DEPTH which is at www.ruthaine.com

Read more about the author and her view on being a futurist.

 

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