At some point the public library will be obsolete

New figures out who us that at some point the public lending library will simply be obsolete:

The proportion of adults visiting public libraries in England has fallen by almost a third over the last decade, according to a new government report, although usage in the country’s most deprived areas has remained stable.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has measured the public’s usage of libraries in England since 2005. In the 12 months to March 2016, it reported that just 33.4% of adults had used a public library, compared with 48.2% of adults in 2005/2006, when the survey began. This marks a drop of 30.7% over the decade, and is the first time the government department has highlighted a “significant decrease” in the proportion of adults who used public libraries. In comparison, the proportion of adults visiting heritage sites, museums and galleries increased over the decade.

Please note that we are here referring to the lending libraries, not the reference ones.

There's other things to do these days, other ways to gain access to reading matter. Any PC, tablet or smartphone has access to tens of thousands of free titles. It simply becomes less necessary to have that publicly funded service.

At which point we're going to have a lovely example of the inherent conservatism of state provision. For even as and when true obsolesence is reached absolutely none of us believe that the political system is just going to say "Ah, yes, better stop spending money on that then". 

Note what happened when the public libraries displaced the paid lending ones - there're a couple of private sector ones occupying small niches but essentially the field shut up shop and went and did something else. Which is of course what should be done when the old manner of doing whatever it is is superceded.  As we say, absolutely none of us expect this to end up being true of a public service.

Which is one of the major problems with having public services in the first place. The lumbering state isn't very good at picking up the new things which need to be done. It's not very bad and not very good at doing things we all agree should be done in a static manner. And it's absolutely terrible at stopping doing the things which no longer need to be done.

And yet, as technology moves on there're always things that we should stop doing. One of the things we really must work on rather more is making government better at recognising when it should simply stop doing something.