This article on the importance of libraries by sociologist Eric Klinenberg is really interesting:
But the problem that libraries face today isn’t irrelevance. Indeed, in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed.
Why are libraries such special places? Because they’re essentially the last public spaces that don’t require people to pay money to get in, and that deliver the same services to everyone regardless of their social status:
Libraries are an example of what I call “social infrastructure”: the physical spaces and organizations that shape the way people interact. Libraries don’t just provide free access to books and other cultural materials, they also offer things like companionship for older adults, de facto child care for busy parents, language instruction for immigrants and welcoming public spaces for the poor, the homeless and young people.
We take our kids to the library 2-3 times a month, and they love it. It’s not just the unlimited selection of books (although that’s a big part of it). It’s also the educational classes, the reading contests, and ok sure, the iPads…