In an increasingly digitized age, libraries are no longer places where readers spend hours flipping through an entire room of card catalogues to find particular books. Now, visitors to a library can simply use its online catalogue to search, make reservations, and request scanned copies of library resources. However, while revolutionizing the ways in which people interact with libraries, the advent of the Internet has also challenged the role of libraries as a major repository of information.
This leads to a vital question: Do people still need libraries in the digital age? The simple answer is yes. The deluge of information, instead of broadening people's perspective, often limits their horizon by only feeding people with what they want to see. Libraries furnish readers with not only a sense of occasion, but also opportunities to make unexpected discoveries while wandering through the shelves.
In fact, data have shown that, by the end of 2021, the number of registered members of public libraries in China had exceeded 103 million, a 135-percent increase from that in 2012.
The past decade has seen many libraries turned into multifunctional spaces that integrate book loans, cultural events and leisure activities. A famous example is the new Guangzhou Library in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. This library, which opened in 2012, is equipped with a canteen, a gym, an art exhibition hall and a coffee shop. Some others are also lending books to hotels and bed and breakfasts, thereby making books more accessible to readers.
This is an edited excerpt of an article published by Oriental Outlook on May 4