The future of libraries

Forget during the pandemic — what comes next for libraries afterward? First things first: coffee. After that, my list gets adventurous. For instance, I’d like to one day be able to rent bodies, Altered Carbon style. Like, take a Brad Pitt or Daniel Craig out for a spin to see what it’s like to turn heads in public. Or, Hell, a Jennifer Lawrence. Actually, I’d probably just stay home all day and look at myself in the mirror. But seriously, where do libraries go from here? The NYT investigates.

Many companies and public institutions were unprepared for the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown. There was one notable, perhaps even surprising, exception: the nation’s public libraries.

For more than a decade, these seemingly traditional institutions had been investing in a range of technologies and media. Libraries now balance two stacks: the physical with the so-called digital full stack.

With a wealth of electronic books, streaming platforms and of course Zoom, many were ready, with some adjustments, to provide services for their communities. But no one could have predicted that 2020 would create the moment when “our libraries, the most trusted civic institutions in the country, would become totally virtual,” said Anthony Marx, the president and chief executive of the New York Public Library, the nation’s largest library system after the Library of Congress.

But will virtual offerings eclipse physical locations?

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