But Palfrey forcefully refutes the notion that libraries - and librarians - are dinosaurs in the face of Google and Internet search engines.
That point might be obvious to anyone reading a book review like this. But he talks at length about that it's not so obvious, particularly to young people who view libraries as anachronisms and see the libraries they have access to falling apart.
The downsizing and de-funding of libraries has been one of the great tragedies of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in the U.S., largely because libraries are sooooo bloody important to democracy. But Palfrey makes a persuasive case on behalf of libraries and explains their changing role well.
Palfrey runs through the history of public libraries, cloud computing, the importance of copyright, and the human networking of librarians - among many other topics.
It's the kind of book in which you can cherry pick sections to study and still get a good overall sense of what he is trying to get across.
In his concluding chapter, he struck a deep chord with me about the importance of serendipity in the library experience. I picked up his book, along with two others, from a shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library a few days ago. I would never have picked his book out of some Amazon catalog or stumbled on it while doing some bit of Internet searching.
"For some people, it is impossible to come out of the stacks without armfuls of books, even if they went
into the stacks seeking just one." (Page 208)
Amen to that, John Palfrey. Amen.
Biblio TECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google is on the new book/browsing shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library.
Right where it belongs, unless you check it out to read it.