(Kansas City, Missouri) - The importance of libraries continues to grow. More than book repositories, they are crucial democratic institutions, ensuring equal access to education, jobs, and information.
But as educator and technology expert John Palfrey notes, they are now imperiled. The world is rapidly modernizing. Government funding is dwindling. Libraries must evolve—transition to a digital, collaborative, and networked future while preserving the best of their traditional physical advantages—if they are to survive.
Palfrey assesses today's and tomorrow's libraries in a discussion of his soon-to-be released book, BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.
The presentation—marking the end of the 10th anniversary year of the opening of Kansas City's elegant downtown Central Library—begins at 6:30 p.m.
Palfrey, the head of Massachusetts' esteemed Phillips Academy and chairman of the board of trustees at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, writes that, for many, "libraries are the one place where the information they need to be engaged in civic life is truly available for free, requiring nothing more than the time to walk into a branch."
As such, he says, they are essential to democracy: a point of access to daily newspapers, weekly news magazines, and documentary films; a place to hear candidates for office compare points of view or visiting professors explain their work on climate change, immigration, or job creation; and perhaps the only venue where a child or other member of a family without a lot of money can see a dramatic reading or production of one of Shakespeare's works.
Palfrey calls for further reinvention. Libraries must embrace the digital age, converting print material and ensuring that digitally created items are available online, while continuing to fill their vital, longtime role as public spaces, he says.
Palfrey has overseen Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts—alma mater of telegraph inventor Samuel Morse, actors Humphrey Bogart and Jack Lemmon, and presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush—since 2012. He previously led the effort to reorganize the Harvard Law School Library, and is the founding chairman of the Digital Public Library of America.
His presentation precedes National Library Week from April 12-18, 2015.
A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th and Baltimore.