It is almost certain that scholars throughout history, as well as those simply hungry for knowledge or wisdom, sought literature and information from the many books, periodicals, and other pieces of work contained in libraries. This is perhaps even more true as we go further back in time. Then, vast libraries were the breeding ground of scholars who had to dedicate countless hours confined inside them in their quest for knowledge.
As we have moved from scrolls to books, guided by the advent of the printing press, libraries only grew in importance. But recently, with the growing importance of the Internet and personal computers, the role of libraries as the bearers of knowledge has been slowly diminishing.
I am in no way proposing the abolishment of these institutions, but rather asking whether the concept for which they are designed remains viable. It has been my observation that there are only two principal reasons for which one may still remain compelled to visit or study at a library regularly: to seek the nurturing calm and quiet found there and to gain access to the extremely costly periodicals (via Internet or in print).
Considering that from my observation, the latter reason comprises the minority of visitors, is it really mainly the calm and quiet that draws scholars to the library? If so, what will happen when we stop printing books and everything becomes digitalized? Will libraries simply become large buildings with tables, chairs, and computers? Even further, what will happen when access to expensive periodicals becomes available at home; will people continue to go to libraries?
Having been one of those individuals indebted to libraries simply for providing a studious environment, I strongly believe we need to think of ways to upgrade their current role in order to maintain their long-held stature as institutions for advancing academia.