Computers have very different needs from books. Access to computers, and to documents stored on the Internet, can be better provided outside the structure of a library.
Advancing technological aspects of libraries and promoting lifelong learning are synergistic values.*When a librarian starts spouting crap like that, it's time to find someone else to steward the collection.
Today, as I write this, in late 2001, many libraries are busy discarding portions of their collection, and revamping reading rooms, to make room for desktop computer workstations which will provide their patrons with Internet access, and through it access to online documents. Today, in late 2001!!! Right now, many students have laptops. In a few years, they will all have portable computers. Spending large amounts of money to turn beautiful libraries into ugly loud computer pods is nuts; in a couple years all the patrons will have portables, and all buildings on campus (yes including even the main library) will provide public wireless Internet access using inexpensive and unobtrusive wireless access points. Computer pods replacing reading rooms today will enjoy a useful lifetime of a few years, at most.
Librarians are not specialists in the appropriate use of computer technology, and are unequipped to forecast technology's future. But many have computer envy! They want their library to be chock full of great big beige computers, with loud fans and enormous color monitors, humming and whirring and flashing their screen savers. Who cares about musty old books and a quiet place to read them, or mahogany benches and tasteful architecture? How boring and old fashioned.
One can purchase a bunch of two-year-old laptops for use by library patrons - perfectly serviceable mint condition laptops mind you - for under $500/laptop, today. Wireless access points with a range of 100m cost under $200, today. PCMCIA wireless ethernet cards cost under $100, today. If a library wants to provide Internet access, it can set up a few wireless access points, glue some wireless PCMCIA cards into a couple dozen laptops kept behind a counter, and voila. How convenient, to be able to carry the computer to the shelves, to be able to slide it aside in a reading alcove. Need some more laptops? Just buy them. No need to plan, no need to rearrange furniture.
This is the direction sophisticated organizations are moving, today. Starbucks isn't installing workstations for their customers, they're installing wireless access points. Campuses like MIT and Carnegie Mellon and Stanford already have nearly 100% wireless coverage.