What will be the future of traditional libraries in the digital age?

Reading is an exciting activity for some, a professional practice for others, or a necessity. Several writers, theorists, and teachers have pointed out that the media influence the way we read, write and think, even our ability to concentrate.

At the root of the reading crisis would not be digital or television, since this decline in reading would have already begun in the 1980s.

The relationship to the book has changed over time: from intensive reading (specific to the period when the reader had very little access to the books – aloud) to extensive reading (represented by an increasing number of books, individual and silent reading, but a relationship “at a superficial level”, “less intensive”).

Are librairies obsolete?

However, a decline in reading means a decrease in the number of visitors to the places dedicated to it. We need to think more specifically about the library itself and the question of its obsolescence. Indeed, it seems to be increasingly relevant in the era of dematerialization, digital books, online book sales, and in the age of the giant Amazon, to put it briefly.

We can, therefore, consider obsolete the bookstore since it is a place for selling books, where Amazon offers a plethora of products. It can also be viewed as such when establishing a space-time relationship. On the Internet, you are guaranteed to find the book you are looking for, immediately, without having to travel. It says a lot about our current practices, where waiting means wasting time and where everything is only immediate.

What makes the bookstore obsolete is how bookstores have failed to keep up the pace and continue for some to exclude a category of less educated readers who inevitably turn to the online sales system in which they do not feel judged. This old order of reading no longer exists today, and that is what booksellers have not been able to anticipate.

However, the situation is not desperate. The library can avoid obsolescence if booksellers organize themselves differently. Bookstores can pool their skills, for example, by creating networks of booksellers, by recreating a culture of proximity to counter the dispersion of too often anonymous relationships on the web, but also by restoring the notion of advice, by repositioning itself as a guide, by taking initiatives and by positioning itself on the internet.

It, therefore, seems possible to imagine new models.

To conclude, we would like to insist on the fact that the announced decline of the bookshop is to be qualified. It seems obsolete because it lags behind the rapid and massive changes in society in terms of the consumption of cultural goods. Nevertheless, bookstores are not only victims and have a role to play, on the human side, in the niche of advice that Amazon will always miss.

The library is undoubtedly in danger but not outdated. Booksellers have to open up and not get themselves bogged down in an old mode of operation that gives pride of place to a small community of highly experienced readers while neglecting others who refer to the Internet, where they do not feel judged.