Battle Between Libraries and Internet is One of Tradition vs Modernity

Published: 24th September 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2015 03:04 AM   |  A+A-

The current century faces a tough tug of war between tradition and modernity. Technology is taking over every sphere of life and has been trying to replace the latter by being a more efficient tool for any work. In terms of education, institutions have adopted forms of e-learning where people have gone beyond the realms of books and are now taking the help of the virtual space to make learning more interactive and efficient. But the question remains whether we as students are ready to make the transition from the physical world of books and libraries to technology.

Since time immemorial, libraries have not only been considered as a temple of knowledge but also have become a part of every culture’s heritage. Great scholars have immense respect for the institution of libraries which in today’s world is failing. Academician Richard F Thomas said “One of the powerful functions of a library — any library — lies in its ability to take us away from worlds that are familiar and comfortable and into ones which we can neither predict nor control, to lead us down new roads whose contours and vistas provide us with new perspectives. Sometimes, if we are fortunate, those other worlds turn out to have more points of familiarity with our own than we had thought of. Sometimes we make connections back to familiar territory and when we have returned, we do so supplied with new perspectives, which enrich our lives as scholars and enhance our role as teachers. Sometimes the experience takes us beyond our immediate lives as scholars and teachers, and the library produces this result particularly when it functions as the storehouse of memory, a treasury whose texts connect us through time to all humanity.”

One of the biggest segregating factors between the internet and physical libraries is that not everything is available on the former. It certainly is a faster mode of searching a piece of information but not necessarily a reliable one. In our higher education, when we are required to delve into research, our studies require authorities that may not necessarily be proper if references are taken from the internet. Librarians are trained to do high-level research that supports scientists, doctors, lawyers, professors, writers, government officials and other important professionals. Without the aid of librarians, all of these people would be making decisions without having all of the relevant knowledge they need on their topics. Books and journals found in libraries would be published under rigorous guidelines of citation and accuracy and are thereby allowed into libraries’ collections. These standards are simply not imposed on websites. They can show in search results whether or not they provide citations. With enough research, the accuracy of web resources often can be determined. However, it is very time-consuming. Libraries make research much more efficient.

It’s a misconception that the internet gives free access to information instead of a library that charges a subscription fee. The truth is that the various journals and papers that are referred to from the internet also charge an amount that has to be paid online. In comparison to that, a library is a much better option whose fee is relatively low.

The habit of browsing libraries should be inculcated from childhood which is why its prime importance is given in elementary stage. Libraries give the perfect atmosphere for concentration and put less strain on the eyes compared to computer monitors that can be distracting at times. The internet is a highly efficient tool to garner public opinion, but it cannot be considered a valid replacement.

A 2005 study of the Illinois School Libraries shows that students who frequently visit well-stocked and well-staffed school libraries end up with higher ACT scores and perform better on reading and writing exams.

Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that technology is not necessarily bulldozing itself into our lives. It is integrating itself. Eventually we might be able to see digital libraries coming up, which might be an environment-friendly approach till a good extent but the purpose of this article was to remind ourselves that while we usher into the new era, we should not readily let go of the old. Those who find comfort in books will never substitute it with iPads and vice versa but the important thing is to have the wisdom of distinguishing the significance of both the sources.

alice.mani@christuniversity.in

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