Librarians are almost always very helpful and often almost absurdly knowledgeable. Their skills are probably very underestimated and largely underemployed. ~Charles Medawar
For a few years now, there has been some whisperings that public libraries are on their way to extinction. You can download a book to your e-reader, iPod, or what-have-you instead of picking up the paper version. "The kids don't read anymore, they just come into the library to play games on the computer." I haven't actually heard this statement in awhile, but I have heard it many times in my 13 year career here. Now that we are so deeply entrenched in our electronic devices, there has been some concern (generally from people who don't know any better) that public libraries aren't good for anything anymore.
For those not very familiar with what libraries have to offer, it may seem like that. But, public libraries are actually in tune with what their patrons need and want. Libraries take the pulse of the world and anticipate what is going to be needed/wanted next. We have what you want before you even realize you want it. At least that's the goal. Downloadable audio books? We had them before you even knew what they were. E-books? Yep, we've got those too. When DVDs were the latest thing, we had them. Blu-ray? Now we have those. You need information on anything? Yes, we have databases galore to help you find the information you're looking for.
Books come in more than just paper now. You can listen to them, or read them on a screen. If you have a library card you can download a book. You don't even have to visit the library. It's all available online.
I don't think paper books will disappear in my lifetime. Seems like a dangerous thing to take an electronic book into the bathtub. It's frowned upon to read an E-book when the pilot has just announced that all electronic devices need to be turned off. I don't trust children under 4 with electronic devices either. So, no, libraries are not about to become extinct over the fact that just about everyone on the planet now has a screen to read from. The great thing about a book is that it never needs charging because the batteries never go dead.
What will the role of public libraries and the people who work in them be in 20 years? I don't know, but I intend to stick around and find out. We'll still be here waiting to help you find the information you need. We'll still be anticipating what you will be asking for next. We'll still be doing our best to get you what you want before you even know you want it. The library of the future may look a bit different than the library of today in terms of what it has to offer, but look how far we've come in the past 10 years. We're not going to be extinct, we're going to be moving along just as fast as everyone else.
The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.