Peter Cochrane's Blog: Time libraries were shelved?

Government cuts mean nothing is safe so the odds may be stacked against libraries' survival…


Libraries seem to have been overtaken by events in technology

It's hard to get a true perspective on a society but libraries seem to have been overtaken by technologyPhoto: Shutterstock

Written in my garden on a wonderfully warm afternoon and dispatched to via my home wi-fi.

Physical libraries and books have served us well for millennia but when was the last time you used one?

For the past few months the UK has been gripped by news of impending government cuts and it seems nothing is sacrosanct. Even public libraries, a mainstay of educated and informed societies for millennia, are coming under the knife.

Does it matter anyway? The debate goes on but I must admit that I cannot remember the last time I visited a physical library. I give away far more books than I read. As books are no longer a significant part of my life, I have stayed clear of the debate and haven't really given it any careful consideration.

In fact when I moved home five years ago, I donated the vast majority of my library to charity and only retained about 200 or so volumes to which I'm emotionally connected. Chances are they will go too in my next move or clear-out as our connection with them becomes even more tenuous over time.

It is hard to get a true perspective on a society and its needs but today I had an interesting media experience. I was having coffee with a group when someone was handed a very heavy encyclopaedia. They were obviously unfamiliar with the media and clumsily flicked through the pages and then exclaimed: "How does it operate? How do you do a search?"

Was this a young child, teenager, or someone aged in their 20s? No, they were middle-aged. What was their problem? They had a plant sample in their hand that they wanted to identify but it wasn't at all easy to see how you might link book and physical sample characteristics. Anyway, even with all the help available around the table, the book failed.

I'm still not entering the libraries debate as it neither concerns me, nor does it affect my friends or colleagues. But I have to say that this incident was a bit of a QED moment.


There are 48 comments. Join the discussion

  1. 1. Shirley Burnham

    Well, goodness me ! You do come across a little "I'm all right Jack" with your vast library, your undoubtedly beautiful garden, your home wi-fi, etc etc. Sooo glad you are not affected by library closures, nor your friends and colleagues; that is reassuring to many I am sure. For me, someone who loves books and libraries, your blog is depressing -- especially as you look about my age and have knocked around a bit, seen something of life and know that everyone is not in the same circumstances as yourself. But that said, my particular preoccupation is the peculiar person you met for coffee who did not recognise a book. Once you cared for books enough to collect them, treasure them and handle them -- but now you scorn them. Very odd, as is your coffee-drinking chum !

    • 18 April 2011 17:14
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  2. 2. Darren_In_Sussex

    Ultimately I the move to ebooks will help poorer people as the cost of the e-readers themselves will drop to almost zero (for the most basic models) and will give access to lots of public domain books for free.

    However, despite owning an ipad and an Amazon kindle, AND having a strong motivation to move totally to ebooks (I travel a lot for my work), I STILL find myself buying some books in physical format. Whilst its easier to search for a specific word with an ebook, I find its still easier to flick through a physical book and orientate myself through its chapters etc. Also, I'm pretty sure that libraries are a good thing from a community point of view. I certainly wouldn't like to see them closed, even though they may need to move with the times to keep themselves relevant.

    • 18 April 2011 18:41
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  3. 3. ianlibrarian

    Yes, well, strange South Korea are building 180 new libraries then. Then there's the quarter of disadvantaged households without internet access. Wait! Perhaps they can go to South Korea?

    Then there's children where research has shown they love paper books, love libraries, have their literacy boosted by using them and improve their life chances by doing so.

    Or the millions of people who do not have high disposable incomes and cannot afford the ludicrously inflated price of new books....and are thuse denied the life chances of the luckier and wealthier.

    Hang on, we didn't want to enter the libraries debate did we? How embarrassing your cat walked on the keyboard randomly and then pressed that big key and posted this item.

    For the full story on library cuts see "Public Libraries News". For reasons to defend libraries, see the same site or "Voices for the Library" or visit one. While you still can.

    • 18 April 2011 21:36
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  4. 4. acynicwrites...

    "...when was the last time you used one?"

    About three weeks ago when amongst other books I picked up three I'd reserved online. I now realise my mistake and should instead have shelled out £111 for a kindle and £49.95 (4@£7.99+1@£17.99) for electronic versions of the books. What a fool I've been...

    On a less sarcastic note, the small village library was busy albeit with it's core user groups of pensioners and young families. Oddly enough the free WiFi didn't seem to get much use but the two PCs providing free internet access did.

    • 19 April 2011 01:12
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  5. 5. Neil

    Although there may be financial sense to shipping all UK library stock to Ammazon and letting them run a free book service based on their Lovefilm rental model, I think it ignores the social hubs that libraries are.

    Instead of piecemeal whacked out idea's like distributing free laptops to poor deserving kids, closing libraries, axing post offices, local libraries should be the hub of local life

    - Books
    - IT Access for all
    - Post Office inside
    - Council Facilities
    - NHS clinics

    What we need is sensible bigger thinking on removing gross wastage, instead of itty bitty cut backs here and there.

    Another example would be merging Fire and Ambulance into a USA style Fire & Resuce Service, instead of terminally wounding both with similar cuts where there is huge sense in them sharing buildings, infrastucture, managemenbt, back office etc.

    • 19 April 2011 10:29
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  6. 6. tim_courtney

    I've not been into a library for days now. My kids love books and there is no way on earth that I am going to let a 2 year old lose with an e-reader. They are not designed to be folded, troden on, dropped, used as weapons to hit your sister with etc. All requirements that are met quite well by paper books. The variety in the libary is brilliant, I can't replicate this at home, both for cost and space reasons.

    Are libraries suffering from less use? Yes. Does this mean that they have to close? No. They are a part of our childrens educational development and as such are an essential part of our infrastructure, or do we no longer care about the next generation, existing in a world of blissful ignorance not caring where the next generation of workers (tech or otherwise) is going to come from? Hang on Peter, haven't you blogged about the dearth of tech talent coming through?

    • 19 April 2011 10:29
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  7. 7. RichardS

    Agree with Neil: Publicly-funded services have split into too many separate empires; each jealously guarded by its own managers and staff; each requiring its own facilities and staff.

    Our village library is very popular, especially for its six PCs which provide access the web and to increasing numbers of online public services. This library is staffed mostly by volunteers.

    Communities need somewhere convenient and local where they can transact government business in person. A recent, expensive, official "better value" study ended by banning our library staff from providing several useful services.

    Why not make better use of public buildings and publicly-paid staff by combining government services and providing them at the same location, using the same staff?

    • 19 April 2011 12:25
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  8. 8. SimonH

    I'm not surprised at the tone of replies so far, though some of them are a tad strong !

    Whilst I understand where Peter is coming from, I disagree with his conclusions. I find paper books far superior to electronic versions for most tasks - and I even bought a new one not long ago, whose contents are all available 100% free online !

    Apart from the benefits put forward so far (their resistance to abuse by young children), you can read them in almost any conditions (if you drop them in the bath they will normally dry out and still be usable), they don't need batteries, you can lend or give them other people, and once you've bought it then it's yours and can't be taken back by the supplier (think Amazon Swindle and 1984 !).

    The example given in the article is a non-example. Give someone an online version of the same encyclopaedia and they'll have exactly the same problem - the only way to identify the plant is to look at the pictures until you find something that matches. So in what way is the paper version any worse ? I;d argue that it's easier to use since you can flick through the pictures much easier than most electronic/online setups.

    Where electronic would help would be a specialist search engine - probably asking you questions about the plant and use an expert knowledge based system to narrow down the questions until the family and then individual plant are identified. I believe such things do actually exist in dead tree format as well.

    But back to the thrust of the article, that libraries are obsolete. I think the first commenter sums it up quite nicely. It's good to be in a position to buy books as and when required - I'm fortunate to be in that position mostly, although I am selective about what (expensive) technical volumes I buy. I'm also fortunate in having a good internet connection and equipment.
    I'm not so blind as to see that others don't have these luxuries, and even if they have a computer and internet at home - that still means that only one person can be using it at any time, unlike books where there is massive parallelism in that you can have as many people using the library (whether public or personal) as there are separate books.

    And lets not forget, up my way, there are still people who have to use dial up - ADSL has still not reached them ! And often the very same places have no mobile (2G, let alone 3G) coverage either.

    • 19 April 2011 14:28
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  9. 9. petercochrane

    Shirley Burnham = No scorn - just a factual observation. Some people save stone tablets and papyrus scrolls too and old wax cylinder recordings, but I choose not to! Anyway I can send you a box of books if you like - but they are all technical, engineering or scientific. And by the way my heritage was being born into a very poor mining family in the midlands where my education was very poor indeed and no one gave a fig that I didn't have any books. There was a library - but it didn't do mathematics, science and engineering ! So I did something about it and went to night school 5 nights a week after work, and then onto college and university where the library was pretty good, but I still had to buy my own. Now all the really good stuff is on the net and not on paper - fact - reality - and a good move!

    • 19 April 2011 17:24
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  10. 10. petercochrane

    Darren_In_Sussex = I'm inclined to agree with you - but we each play the percentages - people always complain about change - they always have. I just look for the upside!

    • 19 April 2011 17:27
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  11. 11. petercochrane

    ianlibrarian = Not exactly the cats whiskers this one - which blog were you reading? Not mine surely!

    Go visit Korea and take a look - they are not libraries the way you think of them :-)

    • 19 April 2011 17:30
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  12. 12. petercochrane

    acynicwrites... = Interesting - you made me smile!

    • 19 April 2011 17:31
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  13. 13. petercochrane

    Neil = Nice thinking - and would probably work too :-)

    • 19 April 2011 17:32
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  14. 14. petercochrane

    tim_courtney = Give that child a smaller lighter reader!

    • 19 April 2011 17:33
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  15. 15. petercochrane

    RichardS = Sounds like a break out of sanity - break up the empires and make it all user friendly and useful!

    • 19 April 2011 17:34
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  16. 16. petercochrane

    . SImonH = Good grief! A great example of the modern tendency to read into into a text something that wasn't said or inferred. And as for people having to use dial up modems - well I used to be in that position, but I quickly did something about it, but you won't find my solution/s in any books :-) Just a little resourcefulness goes a long way....and people have to decide to be spectators or find solutions to help others or not......and I made all my decisions a long time ago! Of course, social networking and modern technology helps a lot in this regard in ways that books and letters never could.....the world moves on....

    • 19 April 2011 17:43
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  17. 17. SimonH

    Sorry Peter, you must be thinking of a different article to the one I read !
    I'm well aware of your experiments in internet access etc - but have you visited the Lake District ? It's full of big lumps of rock called hills - which your engineering knowledge will tell you don't do anything positive for radio propagation at the sort of frequencies required. Not everyone is in a position to do much (if anything) about it.
    I have (or rather work has) one enterprising customer who persuaded BT to install a buried cable - it helped that he owned the land and machinery required so he could dig them the trench and they just dropped the cable in. It dealt with the problem of trees bringing down the cable every time the wind blew - but he still couldn't get a usable ADSL connection. From memory mobile recption is poor, and would only be 2G data, not 3G. Eventually he got a connection through a local development project that subsidised the installation of a wireless (microwave) connection through a commercial operator - so he only pays the equivalent of a 2M ADSL circuit, but gets a fairly decent microwave link instead. That's not available to everyone - we have other customers who cannot even get that - those darn hills again - copper line too long for ADSL, no line of sight to anywhere useful.

    As I read your article, the summary appears to be "no need for printed books, hence no need for libraries, everything you could possibly want is available online". Sorry Peter, there are some good (non-technical) reasons for keeping printed books, and not everyone has a decent internet connection (or the option to do anything about it). Those are the facts in some parts of the country.

    • 20 April 2011 08:22
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  18. 18. keithhart

    I must agree with Shirley - just because you happen to be in the small percentage of people who live in an area with access to fast broadband, and have the financial and intellectual resources to use it, you seem to think it's the answer for everyone.
    Just because you met one teenager who had am amusing line in patter when faced with an unwieldy encyclopaedia you seem to think no-one uses reference libraries - ask CILIP (it used to be called the Library Association before it turned politically correct so they could access funding for new technology), they will tell you how vital those services are.
    Just because you do not appreciate the value of a real book you want to impose your technorati hi tech hellish future on the rest of us.
    I would guess from your blog entries (again Shirley - agree - this is a bleak world we are heading for) that I have different views from yours but the most important difference between us is that I have no wish to impose my world on you.
    For example, there's a large part of me that wants to ban computer games but I do realise that there is a demographic that likes them and appears to take in a daily diet of graphic violence without the social side effects that I had forecasted. I can see no pleasure or use in these games but others do, so let them have them.
    On the other hand you would deprive them of using libraries, for no good reason I can see.
    Finally, before I get labelled as being compoletely out of touch, I have worked in the IT industry for over 30 years and comtinue to do so. That doesn't mean I have forgotten that I am lucky to have the knowledge and access that I have and would not want to disenfranchise others who rely on low tech (and reliable and easy to access and use) solutions to the issues and problems in their lives.
    I guess what I am trying to say, in one sentence, is "live and let live".
    I don't want to live in your sad soulless technological laboratory of a world and you don't want to live in my sentimental irrational chaotic one, and neither of us really understands the other, but I don't feel the need to impose my world on you, so please leave my world alone, it's not doing you any harm, and I do at least give you something and someone to look down on.

    • 20 April 2011 09:40
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  19. 19. petercochrane

    keithhart = Try reading rather than reading into the text what you want to see:

    Eg: "Was this a young child, teenager, or someone aged in their 20s? No, they were middle-aged"

    And I don't mind what choices people make - tech or no tech...and that is the point...people can only make the range of choice and life in general much better day by day....

    And as an example of choice - we don't have IT Departments in any of our companies because they dictate what people can/must do.....freedom and individuality is what it is all about....and in the realms I work and have worked there are no books...they have not been written yet....and come to think of it they will probably never be written....books don't do animation and interaction very well :-)

    • 20 April 2011 10:29
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  20. 20. tim_courtney

    Peter, I think the point was missed. The issue with readers and other tech is their fragility compared to the tinkerings of children. I agree that cost is a non-issue- if there is a market the Chinese (or whoever supplants them as the cheap labour force) will copy it and bang 'em out cheap. Weight and size are also non-issues: children heal quite quickly when hit by their brother. :-) It is the reader itself that doesn't. Until the tech is self-healing (and Asimov showed us how scary that world could be!) it will be no replacement as it fails to meet the resiliancy requirement. I also like Neils comments: merge multiple, much needed, public services into a single location.

    Oh, and the libraries don't need to stock maths, engineering, technology books, this is what the reservation system is for. You ask. They source. You get in a few days.

    • 20 April 2011 10:52
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  21. 21. keithhart

    you say "people can choose"

    If libraries are no longer there I can no longer to choose to borrow books (and CDs, DVDs, games etc)from a service funded by the government (central & local) so I am financially disenfranchised from much learning and entertainment.

    If libraries are no longer there I can no longer use the faster broadband service available there than I can get in my home a few miles away, because my local community is too small to warrant the investment required to provide broadband more than 2 Mb, and some people do not have the technical know how to work around a dial up solution.

    Maybe in the future (20 years? 50 years?) some of these issues will have been solved, and then we can have a sensible discussion about withdrawing libraries, but for the forseeable future their removal would hurt people already at a significant economic and social disadvantage and it seems short sighted not to acknowledge that - and that's one thing you're not, so I am still flummoxed as to your reasoning, unless it was to stimulate debate from the chattering classes.

    The next time you want to stir us up I suggest you blog about the removal of BBC Radio 4 - when that decision comes I just hope they have legalised euthanasia because that will be the end of civilisation as we know it!

    • 20 April 2011 12:18
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  22. 22. stuhiggins

    My three year old gets a lot of joy from our local library. She loves 'playing' with my iPod Touch, but loves physically turning the pages of the books when we spend time reading together. I just don't think the same can be said from the experience of an e-reader. You also don't get the same excitement logging onto a web site to buy an e-book as going to a library and looking through the shelves of books available.

    • 20 April 2011 17:27
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  23. 23. Shirley Burnham

    The purging of forces and ideas deemed to be the cause of decadence is one aim of fascists; books were once burned, I remember. Are beautiful books again to suffer this fate ? Is that why books, and libraries to give free access to them to all, are now so often mentioned with scorn and the matter so highly politicised. I do not know, but it gives a creepy feeling.

    It does seem to me very odd that in order to market, or express a preference for, a new technology it is felt necessary to lobby for the destruction of the printed book. I would be ashamed to do it.

    • 21 April 2011 06:45
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  24. 24. petercochrane

    SImonH = Very similar to the Sierra Nevadas in California where we overcame the 'hills/rock' problem with a very simple solar powered repeaters. If you have a local 'geek group' I will freely advise them how to overcome the problem. More recently I had to do a similar 'engineering job' on my home in Suffolk where we don't have mountains and hills but hollows and slopes! My home is below a ground swell and I can't see any 2.5/3G cell sites unless I'm at roof level - antennas on the roof and amplifiers in the attic now sees me wit 5 bars on the ground floor :-) It aint rocket science - just simple engineering - and it aint expensive, you just need a few smart folks. BTW I also use DSL Aggregation because the individual line rates are poor here too -

    Fid some geeks and ask them to call me and let's see if we can engineer a fix!

    What my article was attempting to point out was that tec changes the world and people generation by generation - I was just surprised that someone 'middle aged' was already looking at books as if they had never seen one. But here is the big proble: The information now recored on p[aper and in libraries is now much less that 1% of that available on the internet, and library users are a dying breed - so how long will society support this old mode and old model? I happen to think it is moribund by default - and so it is up to the library geeks and the paper freaks to find a solution. A new model is needed - and it won't be funded directly out of taxes methinks. I'm just reporting the way it is - and the fact that I have no vested interest - or indeed any concerns. The world marches on.....

    • 21 April 2011 07:48
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  25. 25. SimonH

    > Very similar to the Sierra Nevadas in California where we overcame the 'hills/rock' problem with a very simple solar powered repeaters.
    >> If you have a local 'geek group' I will freely advise them how to overcome the problem.

    And they could educate you on the stifling effect of the Lake District and the "Special Planning Rules" imposed within the National Park ! I did expect you'd suggest that option, but again you assume the presence of cash, and a political will to "let it happen".

    Like you I am fortunate to have the wherewithall to help myself - though I get a good ADSL service at home and work for an IT services company with a big fat pipe over fibre. Unlike you I am still attached to the ground and can see that some people aren't in this position. There may well be some who would jump at the chance to "DIY a repeater" - but for every one of them I can guarantee that there'd be dozens (most of them "incomers with money") who would be against it. Until you've experienced the politics in a place like this then you really would not believe it !
    And of course, so much land is owned by the National Trust about whom I won't share my opinions since that would mean this post not getting past the censors - but needless to say no-one would even bother asking them for permission to put a relay on their land.
    In the unlikely event that a site was found, political objections overcome, etc, etc - I'm fairly certain that the equipment would not remain in place for long before members of another large lobby group physically removed it (by force if need be).

    BTW - I *AM* aware of the potential benefits of such a DIY approach. One of the Non-exec directors at work has a property in South Africa. IIRC there are five such wireless repeaters/links between him and a proper internet connection !

    • 21 April 2011 08:09
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  26. 26. petercochrane

    tim_courtney = We obviously have had far different exposure and experience to tinkering children :-)

    "Oh, and the libraries don't need to stock maths, engineering, technology books, this is what the reservation system is for. You ask. They source. You get in a few days"

    Why would anyone want to do this old stuff when you can get what you need in less than a second. The days of waiting and snail mail are long gone - the world, industry and individuals move at a far faster . pace!

    • 21 April 2011 08:52
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  27. 27. petercochrane

    keithhart = What planet are you on - wake up and smell the coffee - you are like many in the UK - marching into the future looking backwards ewhilst hanging onto old tech and old ways like they are some form of comfort blanket. In the meantime our competitors march on, rapidly adopt the new, become more efficient and smarter, steal our markets, make us poorer, and we can then continue wasting our time on facile debates about funding public services as the money gets progressively tighter and tighter. Brilliant!

    • 21 April 2011 08:57
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  28. 28. petercochrane

    stuhiggins = Ask the tree year old what she thinks....all my children did much the same and so did my was an interesting stepping stone to a paper free eWorld....

    • 21 April 2011 08:59
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  29. 29. petercochrane

    Shirley Burnham = I don't know anyone who is lobbying for this...but them I am largely out of the paper loop. For sure market and ecological forces will ultimately win the day!

    • 21 April 2011 09:01
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  30. 30. petercochrane

    keithhart = Oh and by the way - the existing Radio and TV broadcast paradigm will slowly be swept away too - it cannot survive in its present form - just like newspapers - they will have to change or perish! But that is another topic for another day :-)

    • 21 April 2011 09:07
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  31. 31. petercochrane

    ALL = Just spotted a few small typos - but that is what happens when you are working on a train via wifi @ 160km/h :-)

    • 21 April 2011 09:09
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  32. 32. psel

    The author of one of the best guides to UK Fungi has kindly put the content online and has added an identification tool. You can key in key factors such as height, habitat, form and colour and be presented with all the species that match those characteristics. As it's online you can immediately see a picture
    and click to find out more.

    Using the physical book for this purpose doesn’t compare in functionality, and the online version can be kept up to date when the books become slowly obsolete. Online books are not restricted by size and weight considerations either, so can contain much more detailed and comprehensive information.

    As a keen naturalist, I have shelves of field guides. Most are not available as ebooks yet, presumably because of their specialist nature. I can’t wait till e-readers have full colour (B&W is a major disadvantage for any flora and fauna id) and id keys as above. They will, of course, have integrated movies and sound for e.g. birds, and they will recognise bird calls in the field and show you the likely species. Then they will create the skeleton sighting record for you because they will already know the date and time, and the location from GPS. The technology all exists now, it just needs to be bought together.

    I can then travel with one device holding a complete ‘library’ (if I may use that term) of field guides to that country's birds, butterflies, plants etc which is impossible now.

    Physical field guides will then be largely obsolete.

    • 21 April 2011 12:07
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  33. 33. Shirley Burnham

    I perceive that you, albeit with some subtlety, are doing just that; it seems disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

    As a last word : In the 'brave new world' which you and you co-religionists foresee, those who cherish other values are written off as geeks and savages. The hero of Huxley's book was also a savage and he, of course, hanged himself. Perhaps you cheered when you read it ? That is the difference between us. I did not. Tarmacing one's garden is also very popular nowadays but, like you, I shall now retreat to mine and read a paper book under the cherry trees. Please think about what you wish for.

    • 21 April 2011 13:52
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  34. 34. Middle England

    Peter you write excellent blogs - you have so much common sense, you are clear and you are incisive. I have been reading them for the last five years I would say.
    As has been mentioned earlier libraries will need to move with the times to stay viable notwithstanding their community benefits.
    I am currently working on project to extend the use of the internet to the 9 million or so adults that have rarely or never been online. Many of these adults cannot afford the IT resources to go online so we are looking for locations near to where they live. Libraries fit the bill. They provide a location for these new users to go online for free. We will be providing some initial training to help them come up to speed with the Internet benefits that you and I take for granted. This might include communicating more with their families, the local community and helping them benefit from the lower costs of products and services on the Internet. There are many heart-warming stories. For more information go to Race Online 2012 and UK Online.
    I look forward to you continuing blogs Peter - they always get me thinking and have been influential and interesting at the same time.

    • 22 April 2011 07:08
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  35. 35. keithhart

    "we can then continue wasting our time on facile debates about funding public services as the money gets progressively tighter and tighter"

    Debates about funding public services are not facile to the people who rely on them.

    And if your high tech world is so efficient, how come I can only get digital radio upstairs in my house?

    In an ideal world I would agree with more of your opinions but most people do not live in one - I'm just shocked that you can't see that!

    • 22 April 2011 09:11
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  36. 36. petercochrane

    keithhar = Over half the world's population are on line via mobile devices - over 5.5Bn of them, over 3Bn people own a PC of some kind, I find it very hard to find places where I cannot get on line - they exist of course, but fopr the vast majority in the 1st and 2nd world getting on line is not a problem. In the UK over 80% of homes have at least one computer and around 70% have a broadband connection. All of UK commerce is now electronic or dying. That is the world I live in - which country/time are you in again?

    • 22 April 2011 09:57
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  37. 37. SimonH

    @ Middle England
    That's a fine thing you are doing, but there is one flaw in the context of this article. So people can go to their local library/whatever to access the internet - they can't take it home easily like they can with a nice printed book !

    @ Peter
    >> In the UK over 80% of homes have at least one computer and around 70% have a broadband connection.

    That's classic marketing technique for selling something. The other way of putting it is that getting on for 20% of homes don't have a computer and 30% don't have broadband. Suddenly it doesn't sound quite so rosy.

    So much now assumes the end user has broadband, and it's either slow or expensive (or both) for the user still on a low bandwidth connection - I still remember browsing with "load images" turned off back in the dial-up days when it looked like my exchange might never get ADSL.

    >> All of UK commerce is now electronic or dying. That is the world I live in - which country/time are you in again?

    That's quite an admission Peter. You are just so far from reality there (and yes, I'm in the UK). It may be different where you are, but there aren't all that many empty shops in my local high streets. Yes I agree that more and more is done the online now, but there is (and will remain) a place for "real" shops (and other facilities). Some types of trade don't lend themselves to going online - I can't see an online pub being all that useful !

    I think it's clear that you and I (and others) are unlikely to reach common agreement on some of these points.

    • 23 April 2011 08:49
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  38. 38. petercochrane

    SImonH = I quote you: "The other way of putting it is that getting on for 20% of homes don't have a computer and 30% don't have broadband. Suddenly it doesn't sound quite so rosy"

    No transformation process is instantaneous, and it never will be, and there are always leaders and laggards. Generally speaking the early adopters fund the laggards by paying off all the R&D cost early and thereby drive down the cost of late entry - it has always been that way: Cars, TV, Radio< Mobile Phones, PCs

    Not every town had a train station. Not every home had a phone, a radio or a TV, or indeed electricity. I know because I have memories of such a world as a child. At my present house there was no FM radio, analogue TV, Digital Radio or TV signal. Indeed their was no mobile signal either, and broadband was very poor. BUT I didn't sit a moan about all the others having it and me not. I did something about it! AND now I have 10Mbit/s boadband, digital radio and TV +FM, but many around me still don't!

    Depends on your state of mind, if people choose not to look for a solution and apply themselves f - then so be it!

    I Quote you again: "Some types of trade don't lend themselves to going online - I can't see an online pub being all that useful"

    Hmm - I can't see the stock market going back to paper and pen either. The reality is far more money, sales, and trades is completed on line than not. It is that simple. The eWorld and eConomy dominates.

    I just comment and observe on the way things are - not the way I would like them to be. And BTW, much of the UK is blighted by closed and boarded up shops and failing business of the 'old kind'. Again I'm just commenting on what I see as I travel not to mention a fair few of the towns in the region where I live.

    • 23 April 2011 20:44
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  39. 39. petercochrane

    psel = At last - someone on the same page! Many thanks for the input and a touch of sanity.

    And I have to say that it has been the same for my profession and teaching subjects too.

    But in your sector my wife carries a vast selection of bird information and song on her mobile phone as she likes to 'twitch' as we travel and it all saves on books space and weight in the luggage overhead. But there is no chance the binoculars will be left behind :-)

    As someone professionally qualified in mainly 'hard science related topics' but with an interest in everything on the planet - I really do appreciate those who commit to getting their topics represented online. I also salute the many professors and lecturers and their universities for making the routine and leading edge material available.

    To be able to get a briefing and the latest information and views anywhere on the planet is invaluable.


    • 24 April 2011 11:45
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  40. 40. petercochrane

    acynicwrites = I can understand that! So far I have not been attracted by the Kindle, and I don't own an iPad yet, and the reason is; I need so much computing power to do my job. So a 15inch MacBook Pro with all the bells and whistles just cuts the mustard nicely. The nice thing is that I can use it for book reading too should I choose too- although it is weighty!

    My biggest problem is the number of books people gift to me. Most get donated or regifted :-)

    • 24 April 2011 11:50
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  41. 41. petercochrane

    Middle England = Nice of you to say so - and I do try to get to the 'heart of the matter'. And I applaud your efforts. I have been involved in a few of these and currently donate all my old IT equipment (usually 18 month - 2 year old laptops & phones) to worth causes in the same direction.

    The thing I really like to see is the young (born to IT) helping the older generations who are 'worried about breaking it'. One of the rare examples of old and you coming together in a modern society. Schools, church halls, community centres, some homes, and some businesses, and what is left of the library network are all good centres to do this. But then, so are the retirement communities.

    Keep up the good work :-)

    • 24 April 2011 11:59
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  42. 42. petercochrane

    Shirley Burnham = You are what you accuse me of being - which I am not :-)

    • 24 April 2011 19:59
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  43. 43. petercochrane

    SImonH= I presume you chose to live there and no one forced you? An you did research all this before you moved? Then of course there is camouflage, disguise and ingenuity....the letter of the law and the spirit...regulation and what is possible...just consider it all an interesting challenge. BUT remember that it is seldom the case that a society can meet the needs and demands of absolutely everyone in a society. AND the damage caused to the whole is proportionately very small. SO it may be self help groups or nothing. IFF you for such a group and need ideas and advice - just ping me and if I can help in any way I will do so.

    • 24 April 2011 20:16
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  44. 44. SimonH

    @ Peter
    > I presume you chose to live there and no one forced you?
    You presume wrong ! Where I live was chosen by my parents a *long* time ago.
    > An you did research all this before you moved?
    And what was there to research in the days when even dial-up internet was science fiction ? Our phone was on a party line where you had to press a button before getting dial tone, and the front of the phone book was full of dialling codes for the other villages round about.

    But this isn't about me - I get a decent ADSL connection, and if the LLU operators weren't unacceptable to me I could even have an "up to 24M" service. There's even talk of 21CN reaching our exchange, but the date seems to keep going back, and back, ...

    There are people who have lived in one house all their lives. Sadly I find your attitude all too familiar when people "with" are talking about people "without" - an attitude that it's their fault for wanting to live in the country, and if they only moved to a town then they could have all the stuff townies get.

    > Then of course there is camouflage, disguise and ingenuity....the letter of the law and the spirit...

    So, you haven't dealt with planning in the Lake District then !
    In places there are people for whom a highlight is finding someone being flexible with the rules and grassing them up. Yes, I know people who've been on the receiving end of this.

    > BUT remember that it is seldom the case that a society can meet the needs and demands of absolutely everyone in a society. AND the damage caused to the whole is proportionately very small. SO it may be self help groups or nothing. IFF you for such a group and need ideas and advice - just ping me and if I can help in any way I will do so.

    We seem to have digressed somewhat - but it's all related. The tone of the article, as I interpret it, is that you see no use for printed books and so no-one else should either - and therefore libraries are redundant. I understand where you are coming from, but you need to realise that you *are* in a privileged situation - with technical skills,cash, and really not *that* bad a location. I realise options are possible IF you can overcome the planning restrictions, and find sites that won't have "the antis" up in arms, and find someone who'll host the 'real' internet connection - but this doesn't come free and most young people round here have no prospect of being able to afford to live where they were born, let alone pay for such schemes.

    Agree to disagree ?

    • 27 April 2011 12:11
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  45. 45. petercochrane

    SImonH = You read so much between the lines that isn't there.

    I didn't have anything - and I mean nothing - and now i have something! How did that happen? It wasn't by griping and sucking mu thumb I can assure you.

    I don't dictate what society and people do - I observe. If I can help I do, if I can't I have to walk away.

    The state of helplessness and hopelessness that you radiate is worrying - it really is!

    You should get out and travel more and see the starving 2Bn and the 3Bn with dirty water...all a far cry from the Lake District! And in a lot of these places the people show a lot of initiative and resourcefulness.

    • 28 April 2011 15:26
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  46. 46. That Will Be Me

    I'm returning to this thread as I see that the msgs I submitted have never appeared. My fault for including URLs that validated the points i was trying to make. ( say they will check the msgs before publishing but I guess they have too many to do now, so I won;t list URLs again)

    When this topic was fresh, I pointed out that the British Library had just bought the e-mail resources of a prominent writer. The following week I happened to be in conversation with a Curator at the B.L. and he was most interesting on the subject of acquiring e-books. I also referenced a university library in Texas that is purely digital.

    I strongly suspect that the reason we like books is that we grew up with them. We do not like parchment or vellum or papyrus because we have never know it.

    I strongly suspect that when papyrus was superseeded by the next technology - that many wanted to keep it.

    I strongly suspect that my great niece and nephews (all below age 4) will enjpy paper as children will look at paper book libraries as we do preserved editions of parchment scrolls.

    For the record - I LOVE BOOKS - but I also really like e-books and see myself moving steadily over to them. I see myself selling/giving away books that I no longer need or have replaced with e-books. Just as I replaced LPs with CDs and will continue to the move to e-music.

    The process of change will take many decades BUT the paper book and magazine will go as surely as cheques for money and paper money and coins will also go.

    • 4 June 2011 21:34
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  47. 47. petercochrane

    That Will Be Me = There must have been a glitch in the publishing process - urls ought not to cause a problem. Nice to get a well reasoned perspective by the way ;-)

    • 27 June 2011 23:21
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  48. 48. petercochrane

    That Will Be Me = Nice one :-)

    • 20 September 2011 12:37
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