Ten years ago, if you wanted to find out something, there was only one place to go. The Library. It might have been the local council library, or a university library, or maybe even the state library, but a library it was.
There you had your reference books, newspaper archives, the latest magazines, biographies, journals, maps, novels and non-fiction. The library was the information archive for man, and had been that way for nigh on 500 years.
What change has been wrought in a decade. Everything now has a digital existence; from words to sound, video and animation, it’s all online and on tap through the google machine.
So where to now for the Library? What role can it have now?
1) some libraries are going down the terminal path. They reason – if the information is now online, we can provide an access point. But this only makes sense if computers and broadband are expensive. They are not. So turning libraries into terminal spaces is folly.
2) as an archive for less and less books being published. This is the role state libraries have always played, and it is a noble goal. But eventually, such places will become museums and relics; curios for bibliophiles and interested tourists.
So where to? I cannot see an easy answer. But if the question is not confronted and opened up to public debate, we might find those library spaces we so cherished when we were growing up and studying, just utterly sidelined. And it could happen in 5 years time.