The impact of Information Technology on Governments
Indeed, information technology has all but made print material obsolete. Only a few short years ago, many people believed that newspapers would never be affected by computers and the internet. But we are seeing large newspapers such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer cease their print operations in favor of online business models. Others are declaring bankruptcy and some are just closing up. As older generations pass away and younger ones learn how to use computers in school, there is no need anymore for written materials. And since libraries are buildings that house volumes of print information, it seems reasonable that the impact to local libraries has been enormous.
If the landscape had only changed in relation to newspapers, libraries could cope, but the fact is hard copy books have also taken a hit. With the advent of the Kindle, for example, the need for books lessens. In addition, everyday people have flocked to the internet in droves trying to provide as much free information as humanly possible. They love to publish anything and everything, thus circumventing a library's usefulness. Even mundane chores such as grocery shopping has been replaced by the internet. One does not have to wait for the weekly store flyers to come to the doorstep, he/she only needs to go to the store's website and all the specials are listed. No more dirty hands, no clipping coupons, and no paper to throw away. But of course, all this convenience is at great cost to libraries.
On the surface one might think that libraries would still be useful, as many people do not have internet access and consequently, would use the local library's computers. The truth, however, is that very few people are using libraries due to children having access at school, adults connected at work, and other technologies such as cell phones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) that offer expanded services.
Unfortunately, these factors are detrimental to the existence of libraries. The lower the number of users, the fewer grants that libraries receive from the government. Charitable organizations and regular citizens who previously funded library projects may hold their money in favor of more meaningful investments. And as libraries lose usership and funding, they are not able to provide more relevant up-to-date services to their patrons. So it becomes a cycle which is destined to fail.
Additionally, where once, libraries were places for the family to spend Sunday afternoons, people now spend their time alone on computers or other personal gadgets and electronics. A trip to the library is no longer a special outing eagerly anticipated by young and old alike.
Lastly, there is the human cost to downsizing and eventually closing libraries. People lose their jobs and sadly they are trained in areas that are no longer relevant to today's society. No one cares about the Dewey Decimal System nor how to look up stories from individual magazines. Knowing facts and figures is not so important today when one can click and find everything he/she needs on the information technology highway.