I once overheard someone say libraries will soon be obsolete. The buildings will be abandoned and fond memories will be thrown out like a Blockbuster, making libraries useless compared to all that can be shelved in the Cyberverse. Libraries will sit in a graveyard with fax machines and phonebooks.
No statement could be more false.
Since my freshman year at Augustana, I have been a work-study student in the Mikkelsen Library. Knowing a little about some of the other campus jobs, I couldn’t have been handed a better position. Aside from occasionally having to pull weeds and shovel the sidewalks around the library, my job, in many ways, has felt like something meaningful.
Working in a library is the only place I have gained knowledge on campus, aside from what I learn in my classes. Answers to anything can be found somewhere among the shelves or collected in the databases.
Yes, all kinds of vital information can be housed in a library; however, the real strength of libraries is the unity it brings the community.
When I was a kid, my friends and I would trot over to the library after school. To our parents, it was free babysitting. But for us, it was our favorite after-school activity. We’d mooch off the free WiFi and flip through picture books. The only thing missing was a snack. We befriended the librarians and knew them all on a first-name basis.
As I started to get older, my attendance at the library dwindled, but whenever I would return I’d still see all the same things: cheery librarians and the infinite knowledge at the swipe of a library card.
I also saw a community; one that needed a library. The tree of ideas is rooted in the library. It can welcome those who need a place to escape or just offer a place to study. At times, a library can be a home for the homeless, a place to avoid the cold or a way to spend a quiet afternoon. That free WiFi I’d mooch off of is the same internet someone used to apply for a job. A library is home to a variety of different ideas on topics such as LGBTQ+, race and gender-related issues. To some, libraries are a sanctuary of peace.
My job is so meaningful because it helps some discover the unknown and offers others a place where their identity, no matter what it may be, is welcome.
It is survival of the fittest when it comes to the evolution of ideas, but I think a library is a place where those ideas begin. They are not obsolete simply because they will always be step one for discovery.