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Has the New York Public Library given up on books?

I went into a public library yesterday and there were no books at all on the first floor. There were shelves and shelves of DVD’s. Shelves of audio books. Shelves of magazines and an entire section dedicated to reserved books. But to find any books to browse, you had to go up to the 2nd floor. That was the first time I saw it this bad, but it wasn’t completely new to me either.

Lately I’ve been seeing libraries pushing books to the side. In many libraries, even new books sections have been pushed aside to make way for DVD shelves and Reserved books sections. Both are strange, because the DVD market is flat and DVD’s will be completely gone in a few years. And getting rid of new books to make way for reserves is like a store wiping out its display shelves for browsers and replacing them with material that was already pre-ordered. It’s one of the worst screw ups possible. Audio books are almost as strange, how much of a future do they have, when most people listen on their media players, and there’s hardly any market for portable CD players.

This can’t be blamed on budget cuts. Not when libraries are lending out laptops to users. It’s a perverse way for libraries to try and remain relevant because they think no one reads anymore. At least not printed books. And if no one reads anymore, than who needs libraries. It’s a valid argument, and a stupid one. Are we really going to spend millions of dollars maintaining the equivalent of Blockbuster as a public service? I don’t think so. The library is less relevant than it used to be, but it’s not irrelevant unless those who run it make it so.

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