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Viewpoint: Libraries versus Internet

by Jim Rose I found the viewpoint “Generating income,” January 8, to be very misleading because it was based on an invalid premise.

by Jim Rose I found the viewpoint “Generating income,” January 8, to be very misleading because it was based on an invalid premise. The opening sentence states: “Studies report local economic benefits of up to $7 for every dollar spent on library services.”

When the topic of a new library was more active I tried to find out where those figures came from. On researching the Internet, I found a few articles that supported those figures but I couldn’t find any articles that were less than 10 years old. Those that were not dated used references that were turn-of-the-century. In the rapidly evolving wireless world, this is an eternity.

Next, I looked up “libraries versus Internet.” All of the meaningful comments in favour of libraries were aimed at students, both academically and socially. Next came mothers and tots and then lonely people looking for company. Most of the rest were recreational reading. The disadvantages of libraries were out-of-date information, limited hours, having to go there and it taking too long to find the specific information needed.

The advantages of the Internet are the ease of access, the convenience of using it anywhere, the ability to get news and views from other parts of the world, the wealth of esoteric information, the search tools available to pinpoint specific information, the tools to cross-reference that information for accuracy, the ease of distributing that information to friends and cohorts, the availability of pictures to support the written word and, as a bonus, all of the peripheral information a person learns in a very short time while searching for a particular item. The disadvantages of the Internet are the amount of unverified information that people could take as gospel, the amount of unsavoury information available, the lessening of the perceived need for hard copy such as books and newspapers, the lack of parental supervision required and a tendency to isolate oneself for extended periods of time. Most of these could be handled with a bit of self, or parental, control.

According to Wikipedia, a 2012 survey found that Canada had 29,360,764 Internet connected users for an 86.8 per cent penetration. The Americas, overall, had a growth from 36 per cent in 2005 to 61 per cent in 2012. Worldwide, Canada is rated at 16 out of 210 countries for Internet connectivity.

Libraries definitely have a place in our society as does the wireless world. Both of them are tools to be used to further oneself, not to divide along strict lines. The idea that we will build this library for only $3.5 million is still a dream. The idea that it has to be located on a prime view location to serve a dwindling usage rate is foolhardy. Put more effort into the library, not the location.

Jim Rose has been continuously active in the computer field since 1965 and currently teaches computer classes at Cranberry Seniors’ Centre.

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