However acquired, possession of "the megaphone" carries a certain responsibility. Your tribe is looking up to you, so be very careful when you write things like: "[Libraries] can't survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don't want to own (or for reference books we can't afford to own.)" Yes, your short post goes on to suggest what "else" a library could do or be, but the lead-in is what sticks.
Contrary to what you suggest, the net does not "turn things upside down" for the library. The net augments the library. The net is but another information stream being actively integrated into the library. Every library I have visited from Maine to California, urban and rural, is connected to the web, offers internet access (free), and most libraries offer patrons remote access to many databases and in-library access to others.
When you speak of spending money on "leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others", you are describing librarians, and yes, we could use more librarians to help navigate the evermore complex sources of information.
And why is that? Because library use is not declining, it is increasing. Libraries I use have become busier and more crowded each year. (you can check the Census )They are full of citizens and scholars. They are using books, they are using microfilm, they are using the internet: wired and wifi. And yes, they are borrowing music CD's and DVD's too. Many of which are not easily available at your local video/audio emporium, free download or Netflix. What is wrong with providing some forms of culture free to the citizenry? (for that matter, museums should be free as well, but that is another rant)
Mr. Godin, I understand the you are Mr. Digital. Nevertheless the books, reference materials, and physical media that you disparage are important artifacts of our culture. I agree, not everything needs to be represented physically, but there is value in the materials in the collections. My own recent research involved microfilm, viewing newspaper and magazines as they were originally printed. I saw the objects of my research surrounded by other articles and advertisements of interest at that time (a half century ago). This provides a perspective on a past culture that cannot be so easily gleaned from today's web-based presentation of newspapers.
The artifacts and collections of our, and past, civilization must be made freely available to all who wish to study them. In their original forms as well as digitally.
Please take care with your words. When a strong influencer says that a certain institution "can't survive" he may be inadvertently assisting in its demise, however good his true intentions. Words, even digital ones, have power.
End of Rant