Is the idea of library becoming obsolete?

Yesterday, I was looking for a fact that I had used before concerning the early Greek documents of the Bible.  I walked from shelf to shelf in the library lining my office but did not see what I was looking for.  Mildly irritated that I could not find it quickly, I initiated a Google search and found information even more up-to-date than what I had been looking for in my library.  I stopped momentarily to reflect on what had just happened. It occurred to me that what was happening on my desk through the computer and the Internet was rendering my library, painstakingly collected over decades, obsolete.  I thought about the Greek and Hebrew references that I seldom use because I can access similar versions stored on my hard drive much more quickly.  

Today, on the news, I read an article that may well report the trend that will be the stake in the heart of libraries like mine and maybe bigger ones too.   

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43093477/ns/business-retail/

The news reported that Amazon is now selling more electronic books than physical books and this only four years after they started selling electronic books.  This means the transition from physical books that you hold to versions that you watch on the screen is accelerating more than we had imagined.

I stop to think a little about what this means. What will happen to the thousands of books that people like me have collected? Will no one want them– preferring instead electronic versions?  Will there be no bookshelves in houses–only screens? Will libraries become simply banks of computer servers rather than repositories of actual books? Certainly the transition that this marks is epochal.

5 Replies to “Is the idea of library becoming obsolete?”

  1. Sadly Pastor, I believe your idea is correct. Hard and soft covered books are becoming obsolete, but I do not feel that they will completely leave our book stores and libraries. for where there is money to be made, you can bet that publishers will be there. Older generations will always hold onto print literature. To be honest I think print literature is actually a trend. Just because some of the world is going to electronic documents, doesn’t mean all of it will. Personally, I cant read from a ‘kindle” or “nook,” it just isnt normal to me. Believe me, I’m super into electronics and have made a profession out of it, but the idea of reading a book from a slab of liquid crystal just isn’t comfortable for me….yet.

    1. I hope you are right. But what I think may tip the scales toward the electronic versions is the searchability factor. I am increasingly impressed at the ability of search engines to find what I am looking for from a multiple word search input. I can only believe that this will improve still more. For finding references for papers, sermons, even blog entries, such a procedure has far surpassed human memory of where among my books I saw that, and even has already completely outstripped the abilities of older manually inputed databases with their pre-assigned topic categories.

  2. As a book lover, I hope that books never completely become obsolete! I prefer the feel of a book in my hand, to reading on a screen. I love computers but i also love books, pens and hand written journals! 🙂

    Cleaning out the church library is painful for me, I hate the idea of discarding books. 🙁

    1. Thinning out any library is a thankless task. I expect to be doing that to my own too soon and don’t look forward to that job either. And the growing presence of electronic media influence how and why we do it too. I collected a VHS tape set you had set out for the congregation to pick up-the one on Acts. It was the right decision to set it out. Who uses that medium anymore. But I remembered using it in a class and entertained some hope that I might be able to get it transferrred to DVD. We’ll see if I do or if it just takes up space in my library for awhile.

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