New article over at Meanland http://meanland.com.au/blog/post/the-incalculable-cultural-significance-of-the-library/ entitled: The incalculable cultural significance of The Library, not a title one could possibly disagree with.
Libraries are not just warehouses that hold books. Libraries are hubs of learning and research, of interactivity and community – and this is what we have an obligation to preserve. How many free, comfortable places can one still go to to study? How many communal spaces are there in which learning, exploration and reading are fostered
Libraries, moreover, have librarians – amazing people who help you find books, source information, make the photocopier work. Librarians are living libraries, experts in helping find information that’s hard to unearth or has been lost
The article talks of the traditional physical use of libraries and the, what may seem conflicting, need to serve the offsite reader with digitised content (using natch an NLA example). I think most librarians agree that we need to continue to retain the Library as Place, as well as recognise that the majority of our users will now be online. It should be understood however that one has not replaced the other, the traditional user has not generally gone online only, the online user is in fact part of a vast and growing new usership.
Librarian’s roles may change and expand, so that we may serve both onsite and offsite readers. But, the actual physical public library will continue to serve a purpose that cannot be fulfilled with any amount of digitised or born digital content – as (mentioned in the quote somewhat) it is the single remaining indoor place where it is possible for the public to congregate without needing to purchase or pray. As such, it should be the hub of every community as well as the local resource centre.
There will also, obviously, be the need to continue to have a building to house the digitised contents. For files and servers don’t actually repose in the clouds (well some do but they are owned by Google).