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Peter Cochrane's Blog: Time libraries were shelved?

Government cuts mean nothing is safe so the odds may be stacked against libraries' survival…

Libraries seem to have been overtaken by events in technology

It's hard to get a true perspective on a society but libraries seem to have been overtaken by technologyPhoto: Shutterstock

Written in my garden on a wonderfully warm afternoon and dispatched to silicon.com via my home wi-fi.

Physical libraries and books have served us well for millennia but when was the last time you used one?

For the past few months the UK has been gripped by news of impending government cuts and it seems nothing is sacrosanct. Even public libraries, a mainstay of educated and informed societies for millennia, are coming under the knife.

Does it matter anyway? The debate goes on but I must admit that I cannot remember the last time I visited a physical library. I give away far more books than I read. As books are no longer a significant part of my life, I have stayed clear of the debate and haven't really given it any careful consideration.

In fact when I moved home five years ago, I donated the vast majority of my library to charity and only retained about 200 or so volumes to which I'm emotionally connected. Chances are they will go too in my next move or clear-out as our connection with them becomes even more tenuous over time.

It is hard to get a true perspective on a society and its needs but today I had an interesting media experience. I was having coffee with a group when someone was handed a very heavy encyclopaedia. They were obviously unfamiliar with the media and clumsily flicked through the pages and then exclaimed: "How does it operate? How do you do a search?"

Was this a young child, teenager, or someone aged in their 20s? No, they were middle-aged. What was their problem? They had a plant sample in their hand that they wanted to identify but it wasn't at all easy to see how you might link book and physical sample characteristics. Anyway, even with all the help available around the table, the book failed.

I'm still not entering the libraries debate as it neither concerns me, nor does it affect my friends or colleagues. But I have to say that this incident was a bit of a QED moment.

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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