It is my belief that libraries will always exist in some way, shape or form. Libraries aren’t a stuffy repository for old dusty books no one reads any more, they move with the times. Libraries give people access to free information, and as long as that’s their mandate they will exist just to do that. Libraries give people access not only to print books, but eBooks & other digital media as well. Many people also go to the library to use the internet either on terminals provided or to use wifi. Printed magazines are also still very popular.
The job has changed in the 14 years I have been in the industry. There are far fewer reference type question and many more technical questions. I still see as many people come through the doors, they are just using the library in different ways. In the digital world people are more confident about accessing information for themselves, it is no longer the domain of the librarian to impart the secret wisdom of the Dewey decimal system.
Actually, I see more people using the library for recreation now, rather than research. The fiction collection is more widely used than the non-fiction section. The PCs are heavily used, as is the audio visual collection (DVDs & CDs) although, very recently I noticed that there appears to be more DVDs on the shelf than usual. I wonder if more people are turning to digital downloads (these, at least, wouldn’t be scratched up by careless users).
When people ask if I think books will die out, they of course mean hard-copy books. I think they will exist for many years to come, but as digital books become more popular we may see less of them. There are people who will not use eBooks, there are people who will only use eBooks, and there are people like myself who use both. I do foresee a time in the far off future when people will take for granted that they can access literally thousands of books at the touch of a button, use all the functionality that comes with an eBook as second nature (dictionary, web-links, etc.) In fact going back to a hard copy book may prove an effort. But hopefully that lies far, far in the future.
There may be a weird time when hard copy books make a comeback, like vinyl records are now. It appears that digital music and vinyl records are selling, but CDs aren’t doing so well. And besides, you just can’t beat the smell and feel of a new book. I’m happy to embrace new technology and will often turn to an eBook, but I also have an extensive book collection and I’m always on the lookout to add to it. So for me, books and the libraries that house them will always have a place and that makes me happy.