The Free Public Library

Now More Than Ever

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“Libraries are more important, not less important, and both as physical and virtual entities, then they’ve been in the past.”                                                                                            –John Palfrey, founder of the Digital Public Library of America

Google has become the go-to source for information today.  In 1998, Google averaged 9,800 searches per day and 3.6 million searches that year.  In 2014, there was an average of 5.7 billion Google searches per day and 2 trillion searches that year.

John Palfrey argues that society still needs libraries for many reasons, including that the Internet doesn’t provide free access to information for anyone like libraries do.  Palfrey, a director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Digital Public Library founder, has authored the book,  Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google.  

“Library spaces provide a grounding (in a physical place) for engagement with information and knowledge.  They provide spaces for contemplation. They also provide space and moments for collaboration, for co-production of knowledge, for exchange of ideas,” Palfrey represents.  He believes “we still love the experience of walking into the physical stacks of libraries, experiencing the serendipity of encountering the unexpected alongside the expected (items found in a library),” as quoted by Chandra Johnson of the Deseret News, Salt Lake City daily newspaper.

How do the Internet and public libraries both become even more powerful engines for democratization of knowledge?  “Libraries should invest more in research and development.Libraries need to be seen as nodes in a network, with librarians as networked actors, more than standalone entities.  Together, libraries and librarians can make the transition to the digital era,” Johnson quotes Palfrey.

“The digitization of information will make access to knowledge fairer and greater, which itself can be a boon for democracies.  But we still need people to make this digitization happen, to catalog the information effectively through the use of metadata, to preserve it and to provide spaces in which we gather to engage with it,” Palfrey foresees.

Horizonte, Salt Lake City School District’s alternative high school and adult education center, needs the free public library and the equal opportunity for knowledge it provides.  Horizonte provides hope, learning, a high school diploma for the formerly unsuccessful.  Horizonte also provides public library-like equal opportunity, for financial help to pursue applied tech certificate skills and college.