“Today America’s library system sits at a critical juncture. The Library of Congress alone has lost some 1300 staff since the onset of the digital media age two decades ago. Until last week, four of the six largest American publishing houses did not lend digital books to libraries, president of the New York Public Library Anthony Marx noted. And last month, the NYPL’s move to renovate its landmark headquarters to include more computers and resources for the general public prompted protests from scholars and writers who wanted to preserve the space for research.
“Despite these challenges, the transition to digital media continues to open doors for innovative public service. The Library of Congress is spearheading the creation of a new World Digital Library with 145 institutions worldwide. The project allows the United States, often criticized for supplanting other cultures identities, to help with the repatriation of other countries’ unique cultural memories, said the Librarian of Congress James Billington. The Digital Public Library of America, an online project shepherded by Harvard University to spread knowledge beyond traditional library shelves, aims to launch in April of next year.
“As both the national economy and print empires shift, it may be tempting to take America’s library system for granted. Marx reminded the audience to keep investing in the country’s public educational opportunities, especially public libraries. ‘You cannot have a functioning economy if you do not have innovation,’ he said. ‘You cannot have a functioning democracy if you cannot have the citizenry able to inform itself.’ Nasaw agreed: ‘We should emphasize that libraries are not frills. They are not luxuries, but a sacred component of American education and American democracy.'”
From Elizabeth Dias’ article in Time, Why Libraries are a Smart Investment for the Country’s Future