Yesterday, the press person for Randall Munroe (the xkcd guy) took five precious minutes out of his assuredly packed schedule to deliver a personal response after I let him know that Munroe’s new book, “What If?”, had been featured on my library’s increasingly popular blog. Here is what he said: “Wow, libraries have gotten a lot more modern since I used them!”
I would like to call attention to the fact that I did not respond while still in the throes of rage, thanks to my awesome self-control.
Now that I am calm, I will rebut.
The Internet is a heck of an echo chamber. Through a browser window, it’s hard to remember that the Internet is still a limited commodity that not everyone has access to. If you find that you don’t remember using a library, don’t assume that it’s because they’re not “modern”. Instead, thank your lucky stars that you can afford technology and an education that tells you how to make it work for you. For anyone who can’t, there’s the library: free provider of Internet access, computers, scanners, printers, and A/V technology. If all of this sounds like an easy trip to the magic LED screen for you, then congratulations, buddy: you’re one of the lucky ones.
For everyone who’s not lucky right now – which WILL include everyone at some point in their lives – there’s free wifi and open-access computers available at your public library. Check your email, search Indeed, find a college, look up your medication in a database, whatever you want. It’s your tax dollars at work bridging the gulf between have-computers and do-not-have-computers – the divide that you do NOT want to be on the wrong side of. Libraries are the last killer app for economic equality and they fight like hell to stay that way. That might be worth something these days.