Friday, April 22, 2011

Please Keep the Library Alive

The Sabah State Library is the first public library in Malaysia to offer its members ebook services. I learnt this at a talk given by a representative of the State Library last Wednesday.

 You only need to be member of the State Library to be able to download the books into your ebook reader or ipad. Currently, there are 2000 titles to choose from. You could borrow four books at one time and you have the option to keep them for seven or 14 or 21 days after which you just click on an icon to return them. Perfect for busy people, the housebound and those who find going to the library a hassle. At home, you could peruse the book lists at your convenience without even having to change out of your shorts or comb your hair! Nothing could be simpler!

Despite all these conveniences, there’s one thing that’s bugging me. And I hope I’m not alone.

My latest haul from the library
What would happen when more and more people have given up reading real books?  If there are so few users that it becomes a waste of time and resources to keep a library open, will the library be closed down? What will happen to the library’s collections? Will the books be sold? Given away? Recycled?

Let’s say the books are given away or donated to some institutions such as orphanages, nursing homes and such. (Remember, Malaysians read an average of TWO books a year—up from TWO PAGES in the 1980s—so there might not be many takers if the books are sold.) Let’s say the empty libraries are then turned into community halls where people come to discuss the community’s problems or learn indigenous crafts etc.

Now 30-40-50 years down the road, let’s say there’s a Great Disaster—akin to the Great Depression because it is widespread and on a global scale. But this one involves the complete breakdown of the internet. Servers can’t be accessed. All ebooks disappear. Okay, I don’t have to ramify. You get my drift but… what if it really happens?

My book at the 'new books section' at the Donggongon Library
I can see the advantages of ebooks, from saving the forests to the convenience of the finished products. But I can also see that ebooks and ebook readers are going to contribute to the death of the library. It will be a sad day for civilization when our libraries cease to exist as gathering places for people to seek information and enjoy books.

Needless to say, I’m buying books from brick-and-mortar bookshops and borrowing physical books from the library until forever. I don't want the library to die.

What about you? 


  1. I got tons of e-books, e-mags in my external hdd in pdf format(I am a download freak) as well as physical books on the shelf including your Footprints hehe..and still preferring the physical books but, shutting down the library? NOOOO WAAAAAAY!!

    Hey I see Blood Brothers there in 1 of your buku pinjaman! Would love to read that! Btw I thought the library can only lent us two bahan bacaan, how come you get more than 5? haha..

  2. Hi Glen! I, too, hope our libraries will never close down. But I fear that in the not-too-distant future when fewer people borrow physical books (because they're reading ebooks) it may not be practical to keep libraries open. I hope the day will never come. That's why I always encourage friends to join the library. Read books for free!
    With one card, a member can borrow up to 4 books and 2 magazines. I have my own card and I also use Mr. Hubby's! He became a member 'cos I forced him... I want the card! BTW, when your books are due at the end of the 2 weeks, you could renew by phone and you'd be given another 2 weeks to keep the books. When the 2nd two weeks are over you need to bring the books to the library to return them or borrow again!
    Blood Brothers is very interesting and easy to read. You'll like it.

  3. Hi Tina,
    Honestly, I love e-books for many reasons. Not only e-books, I love anything that replace the use of paper (like emailing my bills instead of 'traditionally' posting them to me). Nevertheless, I do love physical books too, I can't imagine how my life would be without physical books -- specially those borrowed books from libraries.

    Some books are very expensive, but thanks to our library, orang miskin like me still could have the chance to read them. So NO, I don't want any libraries in this world to be closed down due to the convenience of e-books. Lagipun, I don't think it is easy and cheap to convert all the already available physical books in this world into e-book. A few thousands e-books won't be enough reasons to eliminate the use of library. But if, only IF, we somehow managed to do that ... it would be the one and only reason why libraries will not get closed down --because they would be converted into book museums or something. Lol. My imagination saja bah.

  4. Yes, Gunaqz, I must agree that books (esp in Malaysia?) are expensive. Thanks to the library I'm reading books I'd normally not read (because I can't afford to buy them.)

    Let's hope that our libraries will not die and that as prices go up (and salaries go down) more and more people will turn to the libraries.

    Turning libraries into book museums is better than closing them altogether. At least the books are still around. Only thing is, museums usually have 'Do Not Touch' signs!

    BTW, did you read about the latest book find? Found in an attic... a 500-year-old book!!

  5. Oh my god, 500 year old?! I'm so going to google it, that's an interesting find!