Didn’t the 1957 movie Desk Set first raise the question about whether or not librarians and, by extension, libraries, are still needed in a world of computers? Although it begins on a note of suspense, this romantic comedy starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy showed that computers and librarians could work together.
And yet, more than a half-century later, apprehension lingers about what technology is doing to reading, research, and libraries. This shouldn’t be the case. After the number of people in the United States who spend their leisure time reading dropped for decades, from 2002 to 2008 their ranks rebounded astonishingly, rising 7 percent among adults and 9 percent, the biggest growth, among teens, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Moreover, public libraries in the United States have seen record usage, up 23 percent between 2006 and 2009, according to the American Library Association (ALA), partly due to the job-seeking resources they offer. So the future of libraries in a computerized world is potentially bright — if they can survive a slow economic recovery where state and local municipalities keep cutting services.