Why Libraries Still Matter

Critics say they’re obsolete, but New York’s main branch is a reminder of what the Internet can never do

New York Public Library
The main branch of the New York Public Library

by Laura Miller

“…Let’s set aside the obvious rejoinder that many citizens can’t afford e-readers and, furthermore, can only access Google via a library computer. The anniversary of the NYPL’s main building is an occasion to talk about why the library needs to be a place as well as an ethereal mass of data residing somewhere in “the cloud.” Not everything we need or want to know about the world can be transmitted via a screen, and not every experience can be digitized.”