Why do we need libraries in 2013?

The Study Space in full at the library
Do we still need libraries?

Readers of this blog will know that I’m a bit of a fan of the author Richard Watson. One of the topics Richard regularly writes about is public libraries and their role in 2013. I use my local council library sometimes when I work from home and just want to get out of the house for an hour or so, usually to concentrate on writing a document or presentation.

What it is about libraries that helps us concentrate? I think there’s a psychological element to it. I think we walk into a library, see the shelves full of books and our brain kicks into super-thinking-mode. Perhaps it sends us back to our childhood when we visited libraries and were told they were the source of learning and reference (i.e. before the Internet).

In 2012, due to the recession, 200 libraries closed in the UK. Is this a problem?

Today, I went to the local library to produce a document for work. I worked from home today and as usual I had a few conference calls, intermittently punctuated with a few disturbances on Skype and email, and I needed to focus. I sought the library as a refuge. However the study room was closed (as you can see from the sign above) which was on the front door of the library.

I checked the study room, and confirmed that it was full. It was mainly occupied by teenage students, probably preparing for their A levels (aged 18).

Here’s some research into the number of libraries by population of the UK compared to the US, China and India:

Country Libraries Population
Population per
US 121,169 315.651 2,605
UK 5,502 63.181 11,483
China 55,000 1,354 24,618
India 7,943 1,210 152,335

I wonder where these students would go if the library was closed. It seems very short-termist to reduce the learning capabilities of a country during a recession.

After the recession we’ll consider what we should have done differently to improve the education of the population to take maximise the market potential afterwards. It seems now would be a good time to open more libraries.

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