Why library will remain relevant in this digital age?

Abdul Halim Johar
4 min readAug 3, 2020


The weekend was here again. This time around, we decided to bring Hani to join the hockey training that was organized by Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association in its stadium in Jalan Pantai. It was run on the weekend f.o.c to those between 6–16years old and obviously have some interest in hockey.

The session finish around 10 am, and we decided to stick around to watch the friendly match between the KLHA team and some girls school team from Singapore. It was a good friendly game, but we decided to leave after a while.

Since we decided to go and visit Haris in the afternoon, we need to decide where to kill the few hours that we got to spare. I have read about the top ten library articles on the Internet sometime back then, thus we decided to check some out. The first one was the community library that is located in Lorong Kurau, Bangsar. With the Waze set to point us in the right direction, we started our journey. The place was not too far off from the KL Hockey Stadium. Before we know it, we have reached the library that was located at the cul-de-sac of Lorong Kurau. The deco from the outside seems impressive, however, we did not come at the right time. The library was closed on Sunday, thus we need to find another alternative place.

So, off we go to Kuala Lumpur Library as the next target. Located near to the Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur Library has recently undergone renovation. It was just re-opened on the 2nd of November 2019. I would say the deco was tastefully done. Since it is just being re-opened, there were not many people around to make use of the facilities. I can see myself dropping by more often after this to just sit and gather myself after a hard day at work. Being a book freak myself, this is sort of heaven for me to indulge the time.

But then, at the back of my head, this simple question keeps piquing my interest. Is the physical library still relevant in this information and digital age? With the reading material can be accessible at the fingertips, are we seeing the library to lose its intellectual symbol once and for all?

The like of Amazon and Google have simplified our information searching process that people do not really see the library to be the place when they are looking for information.

At the same time, the rate at which our information is evolving has shortened considerably. As I was browsing the computing section of the library, I saw they have a good stock of technology books. It is only after close scrutinizing that I realize those books carry technology that can be considered obsolete. There were still books that talk about iPhone 6 when we are already at iPhone 11. There were few books about Windows 2013 when most organizations have started to phase out and move to Windows 2018. I have not had a chance to browse through other sections, but I can equally assume that the collection of books still carry an old version of the information.

Considering this issue, it is timely that the library starts to review its business model. Perhaps, the library is no longer about the size of its space, but the recency of the material that it’s carrying. Having said that, the adoption of digital throughout the library department is needed. And we are not only talking about the processes within the library but should include all the contents that the library is hosting as well.

But then, what we need to do with the gargantuan spaces that are available should everything move back to digital? One thing that I noticed was the use of the library to conduct community activities such as classes for music, tuitions as well as other community-related activities. The library should also start to consider to work closely together with independent producers such as Fixie, Dubook and few others. While it is understandable that as a government agency, the library carries the responsibility to educate the nation. Thus they would want to steer away from some of the controversial topics that these independent producers are normally associated with. But, if we are to prosper as a k-nation, any sort of genre would need to be promoted. This would enhance the intellectual discourse can be encouraged. These sort of activities can surely bring the community closer and can still make the library relevant in this digital age.

Based on the report by the National Library of Malaysia, there are more than 1000 libraries that scattered around Malaysia. Sadly to say that there has been a drop in the number of a physical visit to the National Library in Malaysia in the year 2018. There was no number given for those 1000 libraries, but certainly, the drop in number is worrying. There has been, however, an increase in access to digital material and hopefully, the number will remain healthy for time to come.

As we are moving towards a knowledge society where IR4.0 will be the pillars on which we steer of the country moving forward, the role of the library is certainly needed. Access to information is crucial as IR4.0 dictate that requirement. It is thus imperative for the library to be able to provide access to this information physically and digitally.

Originally published at http://www.circleasia.my on August 3, 2020.