In what book lovers may see as a sign of the coming end times, a California library is considering eliminating all books and librarians. The Los Angeles Times reports that instead, Newport Beach's new community center would feature a sitting area, kiosks that let patrons video conference with librarians stationed in some faraway outpost, and a "Netflix-like" system that lets readers order books and pick them up later in a storage locker.
It's telling that the Times needed to compare this system to Netflix. Most libraries now feature some kind of online catalogue that lets patrons look up books and have them delivered to their library. (Though considering that I recently had to request a Timothy Zahn Star Wars novel for a friend, it seems even our nerdiest 20-somethings aren't well-versed in the interlibrary loan system.)
It's somewhat encouraging that libraries have outlasted video rental chains, but that may not be due to the public's love of the written word. Newport Beach officials began considering the plan after state budget cuts prompted them to study how people are actually using the library. They found that in their four branches, people are mainly studying, using computers to access the internet, or plugging laptops into work spaces. City Manager Dave Kiff remarked, "Shouldn't the modern library reflect what people are doing now, instead of reflecting what we might have done 20 or 30 years ago?"
It may be impractical, but as someone who loves libraries and has worked in several, it seems like luring people back may be a better solution. Many libraries have started offering more programs and bulking up their DVD and CD collections. While stocking the complete works of Adam Sandler may not have tremendous educational value, there's still a chance that someone will pick up a book while they're there. (Even if Kendra Wilkinson's Sliding Into Home catches their eye, it's still a start.)
Image via Amy Johansson/Shutterstock.