Libraries are repositories of books, music and documents, but above all of nostalgia: the musty stacks, the unexpected finds, the safety and pleasure of a place that welcomes and shelters unconditionally.
John Palfrey shares these memories, but he is also wary of them. After all, fond recollections of pleasant reading rooms can cloud our judgment of what libraries offer us — and need from us — today. In an era when search engines, online retailers and social media are overtaking some of libraries’ essential tasks, “nostalgia can actually be dangerous,” Palfrey warns. “Thinking of libraries as they were ages ago and wanting them to remain the same is the last thing we should want for them.”