Seattle Public Library photoSlate, the online magazine, is featuring a slide show about the architecture of urban libraries over the last few decades called, “Borrowed Time: How do you build a public library in the Age of Google?” It’s another one of those “Cough, hack, libraries are dying out” pieces, featuring some really well-done photos of recently built libraries in downtown Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle (pictured here), and Salt Lake City, with a brief essay by .

But here, from the final paragraph, is the kernel of the slide-show article. :

Ross Dawson, a business consultant who tracks different customs, devices, and institutions on what he calls an Extinction Timeline, predicts that libraries will disappear in 2019. He’s probably right as far as the function of the library as a civic monument, or as a public repository for books, is concerned. On the other hand, in its mutating role as urban hangout, meeting place, and arbiter of information, the public library seems far from spent. This has less to do with the digital world—or the digital word—than with the age-old need for human contact.

Why 2019, I wonder? Why not 2018 or 2020? (And hey, Dawson also predicts that blogging will die out in 2022.) And if librarians will focus more and more on “human contact” and managing an “urban hangout” as the years pass, were the managers of Wisconsin’s Marathon County Public Library right to demote its Librarian I’s to “customer services librarians”?

I don’t think so, and here’s part of the reason why – the needs of young people and their parents-caregivers-teachers. As you might expect, there’s no mention of services to young people in the article. (Writers about “libraries” as a concept and a building, rather than the services libraries provide, never seem to think about children and teens using the library much, do they?) I’ve been telling anyone who will listen every time I’ve given a presentation that “libraries” have never been buildings, even though many members of the public think of them that way. They’re the services and materials we staff people provide and manage for the public, in those buildings and out of them.

Yes, we may no longer need vast downtown “temples” dedicated to information two decades from now. But you don’t need a temple to read Millions of Cats and Where is the Green Sheep? aloud to a group of 30 preschoolers.

I’m willing to bet that the need for what we library staffers do – managing information, helping people find what they need, and helping folks young and old who need assistance making themselves literate and educating themselves – won’t go away. And we’ll need places people can gather to interact, have fun, and share. (And host storytellers and puppeteers and singers.) I believe strongly that as long as parents want children who are literate, and as long as young people want to gain culture, there will be a place for libraries, of some kind and in some shape.

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