Librarian speaks up on the future of books and public libraries in the digital age

Systems librarian Martin Mantle says the printed book is the greatest invention humans have made.
Systems librarian Martin Mantle says the printed book is the greatest invention humans have made.

While the short-term future of public libraries may not be all that different from what we see not, Martin Mantle said the public libraries, in particular, were becoming increasingly community places.

From the inclusion of maker spaces to collection points for charity organisations like Wraps with Love, Martin said libraries were no longer just about the books.

“I mean, the always have been,” he said, noting throughout history, nothing -- not even the internet -- has matched the efficiency and accessibility of books for delivering and sharing information.

Martin brushed off the old chestnut of greater demand for instant gratification and ever shorter attention spans, arguing the advent of the internet might not have made access to information easier at all. What it did do, he said, was a ramp up our need to research as information of all kinds becomes ever more widely accessible.

“The printed book, as far as I’m concerned, is the greatest invention human beings have ever made because it is the most efficient carrier of information and recreation ever invented,”

“The amount of information that is contained in a book, and the price that is costs to do it, and the length of time that it lasts, and what you need to be able to use it and store it and read it is minimal.

For libraries, Martin said the future is about finding the middle ground between old and new. While he said libraries, like the local one, will always be a repository of information, they are increasingly a community space.

Carmel Rogers arrived and got straight to work, knitting 10 inch squares that would become another wrap in the Wraps with Love collection at the Armidale library.

Carmel Rogers arrived and got straight to work, knitting 10 inch squares that would become another wrap in the Wraps with Love collection at the Armidale library.

“Fundamentally, the library is a community owned space. It’s not a shopping centre, it’s not a mall, it is a community owned space, and they should be able to use it in a way that they need to use it,” he said.

“Libraries will always be a place that holds books. Even the online stuff isn’t going to change that, but in the long term, it will increasingly become more than just the books.

“We will provide training, we will provide the opportunity for people, even if it is just the opportunity for people of a like mind can get together in some kind of activity,” he said