Will libraries still exist?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to do a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Archives. The sense of history was very palpable as we passed around the journals of Lewis and Clark, Sigmund Freud's sketches, and the military telegram announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Which sort of leads me to my topic for today: libraries. As the pictures below show, the world contains some beautiful pantheons of learning. Will they become dusty relics, set aside for gawking tourists? In our digital age, what will we do with these places that used to be national centers of learning? Fifty years from now, will the local town library have any relevance or purpose?

I'm sure that Doug Johnson, Carolyn Foote, and others have some thoughts...[click on pictures for larger images]

Trinity College, Dublin

Real Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, Rio de Janeiro

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Operation Chamber, Lower House, States-General, The Hague

British Library, London

Russian National Library, St. Petersburg

National Library of France, Paris

New York Public Library, New York City

Photo credits:

See this comment noting Candida Hofer for many of the photo credits

and also

  • http://thenonist.com/index.php/thenonist/permalink/hot_library_smut/
  • http://crystalking.wordpress.com/2007/09/11/library-love/
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Library_of_Congress.jpg
  • http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=419652947&size=l
  • http://www.inepac.rj.gov.br/modules/Guia/images/Real%20gabinete%202.jpg
  • http://www.sheilaomalley.com/archives/bodlein.jpg
  • http://www.easternct.edu/personal/faculty/pocock/brmus.gif
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