Let me start at the hardest spot. Libraries, sometimes, throw books away. We really do.
How could we?! Don't librarians understand the value of the book?
And by book, we mean:
* Your college textbook. You didn't actually read it. The parts you did read, you marked up heavily with a yellow marker, and scores of obscure comments. But that was the year you also met a young woman who gave you a completely different idea of yourself. That's what makes that book valuable to you, so valuable that even though you're convinced that you can't keep it any more, surely it deserves a place at your local library!
* A book published 20 years ago, in a field where things change quickly. It wasn't that long ago that I strolled through a local high school library and found a book published in 1965. It was in the science section. This is an act of profound disservice to young minds.
* A bestseller! Of course, this is from 5 years ago, from an author that had only that one book, and it didn't really make much of an enduring impact.
A few weeks ago I gave a talk up in Golden. Later, a journalism student interviewed me. Was there still a place for the library, he wanted to know, in the age of the Internet?
I told him that I've been asked that by a lot of reporters over the years. But it has a particular poignancy to it now. Before this young man, the last person to ask me worked for the Rocky Mountain News. (The financially troubled Rocky, as surely everyone now knows, recently shut down operations after failure to find a buyer.)
Some years after earning her Ph.D. in neuroanatomy, Jill Bolte Taylor woke up one morning and ... had a stroke. A congenital malformation of the blood vessels in her brain burst, flooding the left hemisphere. She was 37 years old, and home alone at her Boston apartment. She tells the whole story in her book, "My Stroke of Insight."
I had the pleasure recently to hear a talk by Lee Rainie. He's the director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
The folks at Pew do a lot of research, and lately have begun to focus on a group dubbed "screenagers." These are people between the ages of 12 and 20 who spend a lot of time in front of various screens -- TVs, computers, iPods, cellphones, etc.
Below are some of Pew's findings.
Seventy percent of American adults now use the Internet. For teens, it's 93 percent.