"The first is the notion of place, a thing the Internet was supposed to have obliterated. Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the digital future: place kept mattering. It turns out that people often need somewhere to go, especially people who aren’t affluent enough to live in big houses. People with large families might need some peace and quiet, or a change of venue for study that is removed from the television and the refrigerator. People who live alone—and their ranks are increasing daily—might just want a little company while they read. An ideal place for all these folks should be safe, convenient and most of all public—a place where you don’t have to buy anything yet can stay as long as you like. Libraries are the very definition of such locales, and our unending need for this place that isn’t home, work or café accounts for a lot of their persistence. Library patrons themselves will tell you that. After she was laid off by Home Depot, Shamika Miller visited the public library in Tracy, California, almost every day during 2008 to look for work. As she told the Wall Street Journal, “There’s something about the library that helps you think.
The second reason libraries persist is the notion of improvement, something that has been an article of faith among librarians and their civic backers for as long as there have been libraries in this country. We Americans were early proponents of universal education and individual initiative, and we long ago recognized the importance of giving people a chance to make their lives better by gaining knowledge and cultivating their minds—in other words, improving themselves both materially and intellectually. It’s an idea redolent of Ben Franklin and Samuel Smiles, Horatio Alger and even Dale Carnegie."