All things are corrupted and decay in time … all the glory of the world would be buried in oblivion, unless God had provided mortals with the remedy of books.
—Richard de Bury, Philobiblon
There is a slide-show essay on the Slate site called “Borrowed Time: How Do You Build a Public Library in the Age of Google?” The essay ends with this:
Ross Dawson, a business consultant who tracks different customs, devices, and institutions on what he calls an Extinction Timeline, predicts that libraries will disappear in 2019. He's probably right as far as the function of the library as a civic monument, or as a public repository for books, is concerned. On the other hand, in its mutating role as urban hangout, meeting place, and arbiter of information, the public library seems far from spent. This has less to do with the digital world—or the digital word—than with the age-old need for human contact.
must see that his library contains, as far as possible, the best books on the best subjects, regarding carefully the wants of his special community. Then, having the best books, he must create among his people, his pupils, a desire to read these books.
Through their collections (of various media), staffs, and buildings, public libraries still function, as well as they can, to meet the educational needs of diverse populations. (The language of “entertainment needs” also has crept into library mission statements, which creates competition for resources.)
(The Timeline referenced above, by the way, predicts that Goggle will be extinct by 2049. After that, death. Nothing is said about taxes.)
Link to “Borrowed Time”: http://www.slate.com/id/2184927