What good are libraries? How should they be run? Provocative questions from a reader

May 29, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, libraries.

After my rant last week about the funding proposals from the county government for our local library, one of my very good newsletter readers and faithful correspondents (Frank C.) sent me these provocative questions. They were challenging enough that I thought I should share them with you to see if you had any reactions.

Does the library charge users (customers) for its services? If users would not pay to use it, does it say anything about its usefulness? Is it not a useful discipline to have to satisfy paying customers?

Now that digital books are widespread and readers for them are inexpensive does having a repository for paper books not seem akin to running horse-drawn trams at public expense in the age of Uber and motor cars?

Would a reduction in hours mean less service? Or would it merely mean that users would have to adjust their daily schedule to accommodate the reduced hours?

Why not reduce paid staff but allow regular users to volunteer to serve at busy hours in lieu of any charge for use of the library?

Why not move the library to a mall where shops might subsidize it to attract more footfall?  Have all forms of commercial sponsorship been considered?

Is the outcry a knee jerk reaction?

The classic ways of financing services like the library is to create a fundraising charity. It then can offer naming rights e.g. “Social Climbers” Family Wing etc. It can also create a friends of the library (organization) and get small crowdfunding donations and canvas for will bequests. The building seems impressive judging by the painting. Can it be used for social functions by sponsoring companies?

So, what do you think? I have my opinions about some of the ideas Frank has raised, but I’d like to hear yours. I will be sharing your opinions (without using names) with newsletter readers unless instructed not to do so.

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