Monday 2 July 2018

When my favorite library closed...

I had been a member of Eloor lending library, Chennai for almost two decades, and have had the pleasure of borrowing diverse titles including fiction, biography, art, psychology, health, self help and non-fiction. Over the years, the library with its ever increasing collection of books fulfilled my thirst for reading. Hence, the closure of the library owing to poor patronage and mounting losses came as a rude shock to me.

Eloor library, first started in Ernakulam, Kerala in 1979, has subsequently opened branches in Trivandrum, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi. Falling number of visitors and cancellation of memberships have led to the closure of Delhi and Kokata outlets as well. This well stacked library had books of all genres and I do miss the joy of browsing through the books before selecting the titles I wanted to read. 

In 2017, five branches of Delhi public library were closed due to lack of membership.  Can digitalization be blamed for the dwindling interest in books? Is the Gen Next just not interested in reading anymore? Well, one cannot escape the fast changing environment steered by digitalization. Be it communication, healthcare, banking, media or retail, digitalization has its tentacles reaching every walk of life. Online shopping for books, both print and e-books, has adversely affected the traditional book stores. This is forcing the publishers to re-orient themselves to the changing markets. 

Tablets, e-readers, and now, the mobile phones are competing with humble books and news papers. Today’s reader does not have the patience to read through lengthy articles nor does he perceive the joy of reading. It is only the information that counts, that too provided succinctly in just a few words! With unlimited online sources easily available to the reader, it is inevitable that publications and libraries suffer. 

Of course, there are ample benefits in digitalization. However, it lacks the charm of some of the olden ways. Today’s digital natives miss out on human interaction, enjoying subtle pleasures of life, and meaningful communication, to name a few. The effect of rapid digitalization on the body and mind can only be assessed over time. It is difficult at this point of time to say whether its benefits outweigh the risks, which are not fully understood yet. However, one is forced to adapt to the changing times! Well, I had to settle for a kindle e-reader and a kindle unlimited subscription. Is it a “library in your hand”? Oh, I am not sure; I still miss the joy of reading a proper book.  

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This article was also published on LinkedIn on 2nd July 2018. 

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