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This 8-Bit Life | September 27, 2016

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Is it time to do away with traditional libraries? - This 8-Bit Life

Leland Flynn

Recently Phillip Torrone, founder of hackaday and contributor to Adafruit, wrote an article discussing the current state of public libraries, their decline and proposed a few ideas of what to do with them. He had some good points about their validity as institutions and their cost versus value to the public. I agree with him on all points. He also made some very interesting proposals regarding what to do with them or at least to move them back into validity. He mused about making them into publicly accessible hackerspaces, fab labs, etc. I’d like to explore a few of these and add my two cents.


Many libraries have made attempts to incorporate e-books and e-book readers into their collection and I certainly think this is a step in the right direction. For the greater part of my childhood my only interactions with the internet were in libraries. I owe a lot of who I am to them, so these statements and proposals come with great respect for the concept they represent.


Turning a library into a hackerspace is by far one of the best ideas I have heard in a long time. All over the world interest groups are coming together to form hackerspaces with the intent of sharing knowledge and tools. A lot can be done with pure determination and numbers, but imagine what could be accomplished with local government funding, general public interest and all that space that we use to house books that people have unfettered digital access to. Local communities could have multiple groups with a central meeting space and tons of room. Classes could be held to teach children and adults alike how to solder or explain the fundamentals of electronics and software development. It wouldn’t even take much money. And the social benefits would be huge. They could have such potential to spread knowledge and skill.


I think that Phillip has really touched on a good idea here. He mentioned a few other possibilities like fab labs and tech shops. Both of which are quite similar to hackerspaces in concept but exist on different ends of the spectrum. It would be really amazing to see this brought before a local government and have it be carried out. I look at libraries and see memories, empty parking lots but, mostly I see great potential.

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