Future of Libraries

July 29, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 27
Can they survive budget cuts and digitization?
By Barbara Mantel


Visitors to an online reading room (Getty Images/Spencer Platt)
Visitors to an online reading room at the New York Public Library can bring their own laptop or borrow one for free. (Getty Images/Spencer Platt)

As economic pressures wrought by the recession continue to squeeze millions of Americans, they are turning increasingly to the nation's libraries for help. Many are taking advantage of computer workstations to hunt for jobs and polish their résumés. Those who can no longer afford to buy DVDs or books are now borrowing them from the library. Yet state and local governments are slashing library budgets, and many public library systems have been forced to reduce hours and staff and close branches. Academic and school libraries also are struggling with budget cuts. Meanwhile, the role of reference librarians is evolving to meet emerging demands spurred by digital publishing. The myriad challenges facing libraries raise questions about their future: Should the physical library shrink as books, journals and other materials increasingly become available in digital form? What role will libraries play if e-books come to dominate the reading experience? And should public libraries be privatized in an effort to save money?

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jul. 29, 2011  Future of Libraries
Mar. 16, 2007  Presidential Libraries
Jun. 01, 2001  Libraries and the Internet
Jun. 06, 1997  Reforming the FDA
May 23, 1997  The Future of Libraries
Jun. 26, 1992  Hard Times for Libraries
Nov. 09, 1979  Libraries' Financial Squeeze
Jun. 02, 1967  Library Expansion
Libraries and Educational Media