Let’s say that in the next few years, either post offices or libraries will close. It will be one or the other (or perhaps both). Which could you live without? And which one would have the most impact when it’s gone?

The question of the closing of either the library or the post office came to me one day as I was lamenting the less-than-desirable performance of my own local post office. I live in an apartment complex where any packages larger than a standard business envelope must be dropped off at the office. This also requires the post office worker to place a slip in the corresponding mailbox of the recipient, detailing that they have received a package. Alas, the postal worker has, for some time, not included this last step in their routine.

So, if anyone gets a package they weren’t expecting, they are none the wiser. And the office is all the more packed with unclaimed packages.

That’s not to say that the library has no downfalls of its own. As a college student, I had to track down a book that I had allegedly lost. It turns out the “missing” book was on a library shelf the whole time. Saving myself the cost of a book opened my eyes to the sluggish and error-ridden system that is the public library.

So, if in this world of capitalism and the rigors of meeting demands, why do two entities that continually fail to meet standards still stand? And, if one were to fall, which would it be?

A post office and a public library are staples of any large city. For example, the world communicates (physically) via the post office. While cellphones and email have killed letter-writing, we still have to ship tangible objects to one another, using some type of delivery system. Libraries also work this tangible aspect; even with the advent of eBooks, Kindles, and the like, strict bibliophiles still require the crisp, sometimes crimped pages of a book.

Postal networks found their origin in men who rode ponies to deliver mail. However, those methods didn’t last long when other means of transportation proved faster. That’s where I think the post office faces the most threat; UPS and FedEx provide the same services, albeit for a higher price. It might be an updated version of itself that offs the post office.

Delivery companies like DHL and FedEx and UPS are specialized to do one thing and one thing only: handle packages. You go to your hairdresser for a haircut, and you pay them for the one-time service. The next time you need a cut, you go back. The delivery companies work the same way. If you need a package delivered, you seek out the services of the company of your choosing and once they deliver your package, the service is complete.

The post office, however, is chock full of policies and procedures that help (or hinder) the entire network of postal systems. As a governmental agency, certain standards must be met and yet there is no real incentive for improvement. Who isn’t going to use the post office at one point or another in their life?

All the same, I think post offices will close before libraries do. For the simple fact of competition.

You see, libraries lay claim to a large amount of information and a network of knowledge that is only rivaled, perhaps, by the vast space encompassed by the internet. Think about it. If you want to find out something—anything—what is the first thing you do? You either do what most people do—consult a certain popular search engine—or you read up on the subject. And I’d bet my entire stamp collection that the search engine you refer to has consulted a tome that has long since succumbed to the ravages of time.

Information is a business that will never die. I went to college because I wanted to gain knowledge—it cost a pretty penny, for sure. Information is not just international spies that deal in data; nearly everyone has knowledge that is in some way valuable.

Technology holds both the post office and the library in a chokehold. As its grip constricts, both entities must either submit to the inevitable, or adapt. Post offices deal in a method of transmission that is waning, but only survive due to the package-handling services offered, as well as the link to legal services. As long as the courts exist, certified mail will always need a transmission method.

Libraries hold the very foundation of society. We pride ourselves on being a sophisticated civilization, advanced in all fields, especially science, technology, and medicine. In order to keep this foundation stable, we need information. That very quality, the simple fact that libraries are the keepers of knowledge, will keep them open (whether physically or in some type of cyber form).

Today’s world functions on the cutting edge. I see post offices closing before libraries do. The survival of the fittest isn’t sequestered to the animal kingdom and the bank accounts of capitalism; one day, the pace of postal mail will fall too far behind. Because when you’ve gotten ahold of a commodity the entire world cannot do without, your place in society is secure. Libraries will file away the death of the post office alongside the many other histories of such entities, and they will continue to share their amalgamated knowledge with the ever-hungry world.

 

Rebecca Henderson holds a Master’s in German and a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. Best expressing herself through the written word, she enjoys the smell of burning rubber and can recite the ABC’s of the automotive world upon command. Rebecca hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.

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