Back in the day, when mobile phones were the size of a London brick and computers used dial-up connections, if you wanted an answer to an odd question, you called the public library.
“Good morning, information desk,” a cheery voice would answer.
“Hi, what is the population of Lichtenstein?”
“Not a problem, please hold while I’ll get that information for you.”
[Sound of heavy books being shuffled in the background. The librarian thumbs through pages.]
“According to the World Bank fact book, 28,475.”
The download time to retrieve this information took about a minute, about the same as dial-up, but you were able to talk to a real, live person—not Siri—who even sourced the material for you.
While technology has changed libraries, libraries’ role in the community has not. It’s a democratic (with a little d) place where the world of information and the joy of discovery are available to anyone. That said, with funding cuts, the Internet and its digitization of books, these repositories of knowledge have become threatened over the years.
And that is why you should come to the Durham Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St., tonight at 7 to learn about, and provide feedback on, its renovation. To help pay for the overhaul, a bond referendum is expected to be on the ballot in November 2016. Construction would begin in late summer or early fall of 2017, with a completion date of late 2018 or early 2019.
Yes, I used the Internet to source that. But the library isn’t open yet. Even information desk clerks have to sleep.