Why Do You Go to the Library?

In the most recent issue of Publishing Trends, we wrote about book rental companies BookSwim, Booksfree, and Paperspine. Read the article here.

The comment that leapt out at me during the interview process and has stuck in my head since I wrote the article was from Doug Ross, CEO of Booksfree, who said:

“When you go into a library, more than half the space is taken up with entertainment product. Mass market paperbacks and hardcovers are all over the place and there’s a little bit of room where kids can go in and do research and use computers.”

I found the phrase “entertainment product” totally jarring and assumed librarians would hate it, too. But when Ross posted similar comments in a response to a post entitled “Will Libraries Go the Way of Video Stores?” on Strollerderby, the librarians who responded in turn weren’t outraged at him. They seemed more irritated by the original post. One commenter, Matthew, wrote:

“Admittedly, I am annoyed by this reoccuring question: ‘Will libraries go the way of videostores?’ or, phrased another way, ‘Have libraries outlived their necessity?’. Both of these questions assume that libraries are primarily about books, and not about information & literacy. All of this assumes that all citizens have the same level of easy access to newer technologies, and that class doesn’t separate us as information consumers.

It’s true that I, and most people reading this entry, don’t need to use computers at the library because they have their own computers at home and at work. And the realization that librarians themselves think libraries are much more than books is a good reminder that they are many different things to different people. So how ARE people using libraries? The results of a recent Pew survey “challenge the assumption that libraries are losing relevance in the internet age. Libraries drew visits by more than half of Americans (53%) in the past year for all kinds of purposes, not just the problems mentioned in this survey. And it was the young adults in tech-loving Generation Y (age 18-30) who led the pack. Compared to their elders, Gen Y members were the most likely to use libraries for problem-solving information and in general patronage for any purpose.”

We’ll delve into more of the results of the Pew report in the next post.

PT will still never refer books “entertainment product,” though.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Here’s Kate, “The Library

Leave a Comment


  1. Feb 6, 20096:42 pm

    I was delighted to read Matthew’s comment.
    I frequent the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and every visit reminds me of what a vital role it plays in our community and society.
    Those of us privileged enough to enjoy our own technology and the access it provides us, have no concept of a life in which that is not a possibility. Technology is creating a larger divide–witness the recent debate about investing in internet service for rural areas. When you walk into BPL, you immediately see what a great leveler it is; and you can feel the energy in the rooms as you realize everyone there is engrossed in acquiring information, whether it’s researching a paper or simply checking email.
    As for “entertainment product” many, many people can’t afford it–no matter what format it comes in. So how great that the public library provides that too, and continues to be a rich source of culture, information, and fun.
    Go BPL!!

  2. Feb 18, 20097:55 pm

    I use a library to work and write. Prefer it to coffee houses where people are there to consume products and be seen, not necessary to do work, just a different atmosphere. I get a lot of good writing done at the Beverly Hills Library. I’d hate to see that go.

  3. Feb 18, 20097:56 pm

    “necessarily” do work. Darn.

  4. Jun 1, 20122:24 am
    Ava Dorden

    After my recent experience at the library, I realized one thing, if not for computer labs, libraries would be useless.

    I only go to library to check out books and that is seldom because of the limitations and restrictions.

    I did use their computer recently so I could print something out, but for some reason you can’t use your card to pay like you can when paying a fine and I had to leave empty handed. I have lost a lot of sympathy for libraries especially after the rude treatment I got from a librarian who treated me like a 2 year old.

    I noticed no one looks at books anymore. The library would do itself a good service if they got rid of books and converted into a free computer lab and provided various ways to pay for printing.

Back to Top