Libraries in Greece
Buying a book is not the only way to read it. That’s why there are public and municipal libraries all around Greece and of course all around the world. If you are a university student on a tight budget, as I was during my years at the university, you will find out that going to a good library to study and borrow books in the only way to finish your studies. You can now access the internet for information of course and you can actually find quite a lot of information on the subject you are working on, but even this new wealth of digital libraries in Greece doesn’t always work.
In my personal case, the internet was still doing its first steps, about 20 years ago when I was studying, so more or less visiting libraries was the only way to go… Still the majority of books written have not been digitized. Commercially popular books are easier to be found of course, but older books and books related to sciences are more difficult or even impossible to be found.
Libraries in the Past and Then
In Greece nowadays, there are about 500 about big libraries found around the country and thousands smaller ones. The first indications of the existence of libraries in Greece are from the 6th century BC. The most well-known libraries of the ancient Greek world was the library of the philosopher Aristotle (4th century BC), the Library of Alexandria (3rd century BC) and Hadrian’s Library (1st century BC). Libraries flourished during the Byzantine Empire, especially in monasteries.
Over the next four centuries, famous schools built their own libraries and some of them became very popular, because of the large number of books. Most modern libraries were founded in the 19th century, including the National Library of Greece, still the biggest library in Greece, that was established in the 1829. In recent years academic libraries have been developed in schools, universities and educational institutions, that follow all technological and scientific developments.
Libraries Dwindle in Greece
Unfortunately, the Internet is believed that it has negatively influenced the expansion of libraries during the last few decades. To be exact, I should better say that libraries in Greece and around the world have started to dwindle in numbers during that time, while they were still flourishing before the 90’s. I know from my experience that at least 3 of the libraries I used to visit about 20 years ago when I was still studying have now closed and according to the Greek Statistical Authority, the number of libraries in Greece is at a constant downturn.
The only positive thing noted is that the volumes of books have been increasing constantly in the past years but the number of visitors to the libraries has severely been reduced and the same is true for the number of the books people borrow. I used to go to libraries almost daily 20 years ago, then I had a surgical procedure done and it’s great, you should try it. Anyways, it’s true that since I got my first university degree and my master degree that followed a couple of year after that, I stopped studying and doing research and no longer needed to visit these libraries were I used to go.
I still pay a visit to libraries but this is done very occasionally during the last years. In the past I can say that I only visited libraries for studying in Greece. Any time I wanted to just relax and read a book I would just buy that book and then keep it in my personal collection of books. I think most of the people did and still do the same thing. When it’s about just doing research I think few buy and keep the books. They are mostly interested to get the information they want and don’t really need to keep the books. That’s why libraries are so useful.
Quality Studies and Work
Nowadays the youngest generations are very familiar with the internet, computers, tablets, mobile phones and technology in general. I think that they almost always use the Internet exclusively for studying even when they really shouldn’t do that. This actually means that they more or less regard libraries as obsolete, but I believe that they are wrong.
Maybe in a few years from now digital libraries and the Internet can fully replace traditional libraries, as far as the availability of books is concerned, but I’m sure that this time has not come yet. I know because I am still doing research on various things from time to time, and most of the bibliography I am looking for cannot be easily found online. This means that you must either buy the books you need and read them, or borrow them from a big library.
Most young students, I believe, do not have the money to buy the books or just the mood to go and visit a library. They prefer to use the internet anyway but since the still do not have all the information they need the quality of their work is not as high as it used to be in the past. They either sometime understand the problem or they simply don’t realize the problem.
I have a cousin that is a history professor, working for the University of Athens. She tells me that this is a real problem professors like her face all the time, and unfortunately it is getting worst year by year. The fact is that even though the University has many libraries that are open to all students for free, the majority of them still prefer to use the internet for their sources and studies, which is good to a certain point and very bad beyond that.
My cousin is very critical of this attitude and very often does not give good grades, but few students really change the way they work. She believes that this is a battle we are all losing and that the only way to get around this problem is to develop more digital libraries with as much published content being eventually digitized and added to them, because traditional libraries are dying.