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The physical worth of a library

During the pandemic lockdown, many public institutions closed their doors and transitioned from the analogue world to the digital.
APL has been open online during the pandemic, but nothing can replace the wonder of going to the library to find a book. Photo Submitted/For Airdrie City View

Technology has reshaped our lives, changing just about everything we do from navigating by GPS to reading the latest novel on a tablet. During the COVID-19 lockdown, many public institutions – including Airdrie Public Library (APL) – closed their doors and transitioned from the analogue world to the digital.

Although many think the proliferation of online resources means the death of print, Ksenya Kiebuzinski, head of the Petro Jacyk Central & East European Resource Centre at the University of Toronto Libraries, argued the contrary in an article in The Conversation.

Kiebuzinski admits “low-circulating print books and high-demand ebooks are used as reasons (for libraries) to acquire even more digital content,” but said the value of print has been challenged before by technological innovation.

Graphophone discs, microcards and microfilm were all predicted to replace physical printing and revolutionize how the publishing industry and libraries offered the written word.

Indeed, innovation has made literacy more equitable, but Kiebuzinski posits that what is rarely considered is the physical worth of a library’s circulation.

“Lost in the debate is the value of time: the time taken to browse shelves, to select a book and to read it and see traces of its use,” she said.

In the last three months, Airdrie Public Library (APL) closed its doors but remained open online. Judging by the thousands of people that have watched weekly episodes of all-ages programming, have participated in various online literacy groups and have accessed a vast library of e-resources, going online offered a reasonable alternative.

It allowed us to stay connected to what we all share – a love of literacy.

However, as we eventually move back into the library’s building – with physical distancing and safety measures in place – all that technology has allowed us to do will never quite replace the magic and wonder of going to the library and finding a book.

To learn about APL’s resources, visit