What Can Libraries Do To Survive In The Digital Age?

The future of the library in the digital age.

Library books at The Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pa. (CCAC North Library/Flickr)

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 73 percent of Americans in the last 12 months say they visit the library to borrow print books, while 17 percent say they visit to borrow or download an audio book. (CCAC North Library/Flickr)

The American public library is a place for books. It’s also a kind of secular temple to learning, democracy, community values. Here lies culture, wisdom, and we want to share it with all!

But what will happen to the library as the world hurtles ever-deeper into purely digital territory? When everything’s online, what will be on the shelf? Will the library still be around? As a building? As a place? Will libraries, somehow, make the digital bounty of learning available to all? It’s an open question.

Up next On Point: the future of the library in the digital age.

–Tom Ashbrook


Anthony Marx, president and CEO of the New York Public Library.

Eli Neiburger, associate director of information technology and production at Ann Arbor District Library. (@ulotrichous)

Show Highlights

Tweets From During The Show

From Tom’s Reading List

New Republic: The Bookless Library — “They are, in their very different ways, monuments of American civilization…The first is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL). The second is an iPhone. Yet despite their obvious differences, for many people today they serve the same purpose: to read books. And in a development that even just thirty years ago would have seemed like the most absurd science fiction, there are now far more books available, far more quickly, on the iPhone than in the New York Public Library.”

The New York Times: E-Books And Democracy — “E-book readership is rising much faster than readership of print books; digital books could soon be the most popular book format. Readership of our e-books soared 168 percent from 2011 to 2012; print circulation, while much larger, remained constant.”

Knight Foundation: Libraries Use Digital Technology To Redefine Their Roles In Communities — “The increasing prevalence and proliferation of digital content has pushed libraries to redefine themselves over the past decade. Knight Foundation brought together library directors from across the country this weekend to discuss this issue and hear from one panel of librarians tackling the digital question from different angles.”


“Library Card” by Melvil Dewey:

“Librarian” by Jonathan Rundman:

Extra: Commencement Address

On Saturday, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo (@dickc) delivered his commencement address to University of Michigan’s class of 2013. Costolo graduated in 1985 from Michigan with a degree in computer science. He then attempted to make it as an improv comedian at Chicago’s famed troupe, The Second City.  Although it didn’t work out for him there, he learned a couple of lessons along the way.

At the end of our show, we featured an excerpt from Costolo’s speech:

Watch his entire commencement address here:

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