Not so long ago the pundits were predicting the Internet would kill public libraries. Boy were they wrong! Libraries have become the biggest and most successful Internet cafes around. I’ve been to Internet enabled public libraries all over the country and they are extremely busy. The downtown Los Angeles library has an entire room devoted to teens and it is always full! Now I hung out in libraries when I was fourteen but then I was a virgin nerd. All the cool kids were smoking dope and making out in parking lots. Only the socially inept and plus 120 IQ crowd ever ventured into libraries. Hence libraries were quiet and empty: great places for afternoon naps. Not anymore! Now libraries are filled with kids playing computer games, Facebooking, chatting and whatever else kids do on computers. And, it’s not only kids. The downtown Fort Wayne library, an excellent small city library, has a big computer room and the last time I was there it was overflowing with adults. I imagine a lot of them were looking for work. If you’re broke and need to browse job sites head to the public library. The Internet has turned libraries into the coolest joints in town.
The Internet has also leveled the playing field between big and small city libraries. Bluffton Indiana is a dinky little town but it’s public library is better than the Nepean or Orleans libraries in Ottawa: cities that are ten times Bluffton’s size. The same holds for the Fort Wayne’s public library. Fort Wayne is a small run down mid western city. If you drive around the place it doesn’t impress you but go to the public library and check out the mathematics and history stacks. Mathematics is a good test of library quality. Public libraries seldom compete with University libraries when it comes to mathematics but the Fort Wayne library does surprisingly well. You find real honest to god mathematics tomes on it’ shelves. It’s history stacks are first class and the biggest surprise; it’s a world-class genealogy library. It’s rated number two in the entire US for genealogy. Only the obsessed Mormons out in Salt Lake City have a better collection. After sampling Indiana’s libraries I decided there was more to this state than corn fields and basketball.