Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

How the Internet Replaces Libraries

A Kind Reader sent me this blog post from the Huffington Post entitled “What’s a Library?” Like Pontius Pilate, he didn’t stay for an answer.

Normally I find the Huffington Post painful to read, since it seems to be aimed at an audience of the insecure and the mentally challenged. “Is this normal? Sex questions couples are too embarrassed to ask” vies for space with “Sylvia Browne’s Failed Amanda Berry Prediction Returns To Haunt Her.”

There’s less ranting about the human race around my abode when I don’t encounter headlines like that.

Nevertheless, I soldiered on, ever grateful for Kind Readers. I wasn’t disappointed. It was just as stupid as I assume the article about the psychic is.

The writer’s bio says he’s a video producer, and maybe he should stick to that instead of writing. The opening is about some library near him is closing, and he doesn’t care. This bit is priceless:

Frankly, I will not miss the library…. Even though I lived right across the street from it for many years, I never went inside.

So someone who has never visited a library won’t miss it when it’s gone. That’s the 5th and 6th line of the post. Someone who admittedly has no idea what he’s talking about then begins to say more about libraries. Sensible people would stop reading right there. But I had to keep on, for the sake of the readers.

Why, you ask, has this video producer never been to a library? “Why, when I can order up pretty much anything I want online, any time I want.” I’m never sure what to say to that, except, “you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Anyone who can get everything they need online has shallow information needs, and is either rich or not much of a reader. I’m going with all three.

Exhibit A: shallow information needs and not much of a reader. “I have a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary on my bookshelf, but when I went to see if carrel was spelled with one ‘L’ or two, I didn’t pull out the OED. I just went to”

Two Ls? Really? Are there any English words of more than one syllable ending in “ell” that aren’t just one syllable root words with various prefixes and suffixes or combination words like eggshell or foretell? Wouldn’t big readers get a feel for the English language enough to know that? But now I’m just being mean.

Let’s stick with shallow information needs. Using the OED to check the spelling of a common English word is like using the OED to swat a fly. That’s not what it’s designed for.

Does the have the etymology of every English word, including definitions throughout history with supporting quotes? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

He might respond, “but why would anyone ever need to know that?” Because some people like to be really well informed, while other people like to write about things they know nothing about. It takes all kinds to make a world.

Besides, why go to when you can just type the word into Google and get the answer without even clicking Search. There, I’m even shallower and quicker than you are.

Continuing with shallow information needs of someone who’s not much of a reader, I offer Exhibit B. We find out that “the library is free…, but the web is also free (at least so far), and instant and much much easier to reference and find stuff than in the stacks.”

Ah, “the web is also free.” If your information needs are extremely shallow, then yes, the free web is probably enough for you. If you want a book less than 70 years old, or in-depth research about almost any topic, then you’re out of luck. Only someone who doesn’t read books or research any topics in depth would make a statement like that.

It gets better in the comments. Apparently, the author was criticized for his uninformed view of libraries. And then some people started telling him that poor people use the library, too, and they don’t all have Internet access.

That’s a terrible way to defend libraries, by the way, because it already buys into the faulty premise that everything’s on the Internet for free. Besides, screw the poor.

No, he doesn’t say that. But check out his comment in response: “This is certainly a big change from the original purpose of a library (which, as I [ignorantly] pointed out), has largely been superseded by the Internet – as a repository of books, magazines, periodicals, reference works and so on, open to all.”

If you want your free repository of books to stop in 1923, your free repository of magazines and periodicals condensed to a small portion of what’s available through libraries, and your reference works limited to a handful of broad but relatively shallow projects, then…then…then I don’t know what.

The statement that “the Internet” is now the free equivalent of resources available through libraries is so clueless that there’s no response other than a dropped jaw and a puzzled stare.

You know what the Internet has more of for free than any library? Uninformed commentary about everything under the sun. If that’s all you want, then there’s no need to ever use a library. For that, the library has indeed been replaced by the Internet.

I couldn’t take any more. The shallow, uninformed commentary so widely available on the Internet wore me down. After that, I had to click on the article about how “Halle Berry’s baby bump has popped.”

Finally, something of substance written by someone informed. It’s true. Berry does have a baby bump.

Ahh, the ever informative Huffington Post.



  1. Usually a fan, but why would you disparagingly toss “the mentally challenged” with “the insecure” as supposed targeted readers of the Huffington Post. Gross.

    • Possibly mentally challenged has a broader scope than you seem to read into the phrase. Choosing not to use one’s intellectual ability is a huge mental challenge in my opinion.

    • Yup, everything free on the internet. Except for that whole $50 per month Comcast charges you to access it. I started reading a paper copy of the NYT and even after I read 10 articles I didn’t have a pay wall pop up in my face.

      I think I’m going to submit an article to some medical journal and within the first few sentences write “I’ve never practiced medicine, gone to medical school, or been inside a hospital” and see if the editors still find me credible.

    • From context, I assumed the insecure and mentally challenged referred to readers of the sex questions article and the psychics article respectively.

  2. Alex Kyrios says:

    Well said, but “me” above is right. Since when is the internet free?

    • The Librarian With No Name says:

      It’s certainly free for the people who live across the street from the library, as the author of the blog post does. I know there’s more than one person who lives next door to my library and, as a consequence, relies exclusively on our wireless network for their in-home internet needs. I’ve even had them call and complain when our network goes down, which is always an interesting conversation.

    • We need to get some better wireless than. Our patrons are lucky enough to get it from the parking lot.

  3. Caroline says:

    The bio reads “founder of Current TV”. If I were ever to be inclined to trust Current TV as a source for news I wouldn’t now.

    • Midwest SciTech Librarian says:

      Oh, Current TV,the failed media venture that has now been sold off to al-Jazeera Engish for their precious cable slots?

  4. Skipbear says:

    One word for the dude “Dumbass”.

  5. I Like Books says:

    Someone might (and, frankly, should) wonder what’s going on behind some of the things he reads about in the news. Like what is the Muslim world so irked about lately? Go to the library, get a 400 page book, and that’s really only a shallow introduction to a deep subject.

    You can’t get that from a Wikipedia article, at least not unless it’s 400 pages long. You can order it up on the internet, sure enough– Amazon has a selection of books, and some are even available on the Kindle– but you’re sure not getting it for free.

    People whose votes affect you have a hard enough time reading books when they’re available for free– it’s just perverse to make them pay for it.

  6. I thought this article, and its attached satirical piece on five reasons why the libraries are obsolete c1864, was another good write-up of the Huffington Post article:

  7. dan cawley says:

    i cant read HuffPo. all the ads and pop-ups make my head swirl. they put adverts between paragraphs, for crying out loud. plus, they don’t pay their contributors. shame on you, arianna!

  8. People who think the internet is paper substituted with another medium are grossly misinformed. This is proven simply by the ebook. If the internet was printed on paper it would mostly be junk mail and dirty magazines :-)

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