Local librarian declares: ‘Print is not going away’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2023

By Jim Buice

For the Clemmons Courier

When visiting recently with Decca Slaughter, the branch manager of the Forsyth County Public Library Clemmons Branch, about how things have been going since the official opening of the new facility in 2021, I had to ask about the comparison between newspapers and libraries — and changes created by all of today’s technological changes.

You know, printed materials vs. the electronic/digital world.

And then she spoke these words, which were music to my ears: “Print is not going away.”

Slaughter offered a logical explanation for her take.

“There are still tons of folks, myself included,” she said, “that like the feel of a print book in their hand and like the fact that they don’t have to charge something or plug in something or whatever to read. We’re kind of running print and the eBook stuff alongside each other. A lot of folks do just the electronic stuff, a lot of folks still just do the print, and there are tons of folks that do both.”

Of course, it’s not exactly apples to apples when looking at libraries vs. newspapers, particularly when considering the print product. Circulation has always mattered, but advertising was always the cash cow for newspapers.

That all changed with the arrival of the internet and the transition to accessing information online first through laptops and computers and then the ensuing surge of social media on phones.

Older people were raised on newspapers, but that hasn’t been the same for younger folks who have grown up with the various devices as everyone shifted — adults included — to getting information when it happens instead of waiting until the paper is delivered once a day in the early morning hours.

I get all that, but the shifting sentiment and declining revenues led to a steady stream of job cuts at all these newspapers who have evolved into media companies over the years.

I remember a conversation with another veteran journalist about five years ago and speculating on how much longer the presses might be able to roll. Well, we’re still here and doing what we can to keep it going.

The biggest problem with the long-term future of newspapers isn’t that they have no value — even in these days. It’s just the timing with the breaking news that can easily be pushed out instantly through digital means with the constant presence of smartphones and tablets that rule our lives.

Books and even magazines are different because of the difference in shelf life for those products. Libraries have changed with all the technology, but there’s still a market for the variety of services offered.

“It used to be just checking books in and out,” Slaughter said. “Libraries now have added tons of programs for children, teens and adults. Libraries are doing more workforce development, teaching folks how to do things like using apps or the internet and that kind of thing. We’ve had to step out of the print role totally to the digital role and help people with what they need there, too.” 

Still, at least print — or part of it — isn’t going away.

• • •

This time of the year — starting with Thanksgiving and running through Christmas and into the new year — is always special.

And as we gathered as a family to celebrate Turkey Day with all the side dishes and desserts, there was much more to be thankful for than usual after my daughter survived following a sudden and terrifying battle that came as a result of an infection that spread throughout her body, resulting in life-threatening septic shock.

She spent 12 days in the hospital’s ICU, including time on a ventilator, and another week on the pulmonary care floor in September and early October before getting to go home and start the long journey to getting better.

So it seemed most fitting that on this Thanksgiving, when I always think of “Thank You, Lord,” a poem that has been read many times over the years and printed in this space in the past, that it was most appropriate to read. The words apply for this season and every season:

Even though I clutch my blankets and groan when the alarm rings each morning, Thank You, Lord, that I can hear. There are those who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes tightly closed against the morning light as long as possible, Thank You, Lord, that I can see. There are those who are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off the physical effort of rising, Thank You, Lord, that I have enough strength to rise. There are many who are bedfast.

Even though the first hour of the day is hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned, tempers are short, Thank You, Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.

Even though our table never looks like the pictures in the magazines and the menu is at times unbalanced, Thank You, Lord, for the food we have. There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous, Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity to work. There are many who have no work.

Even though I grumble and gripe and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my modest circumstances were not quite so modest, Thank You, Lord, for the gift of life.