Lying Librarians and Honest Journalism.

The south Florida paper, the Sun Sentinel has a problem with public libraries.

"Some day in the future, boys and girls might read on their electronic devices about cavernous, well-air-conditioned, book-loaning storehouses from the past. They were called libraries.
...
Book reading devices such as the handheld iPad, the Amazon Kindle, or even a computer laptop, allow readers to download free library books without ever setting foot in a library."

So here is a newspaper, itself an industry on the brink of extinction, bitterly distracting its few final readers from that fact by attacking the local libraries as dinosaurs. Libraries, I should say, account for many of the print editions that the newspaper is still able to sell. Our library probably receives 40 copies of the daily Sun Sentinel. And yet you need to go down 27 paragraphs to get to this:

"The past five years in Palm Beach County have seen staggering growth: Circulation is up 36 percent, visitors 50 percent, and computer users 83 percent, according to the system's statistics."

You can almost hear the "wink, wink" that piggybacks onto the words, "according to the system's statistics," like libraries are making this stuff up. Thanks for the support.

Really, what does it cost to read an ebook, I mean a bestseller?

The Kindle is a minimum $139, but for that price you need a place with wifi to download a book. Add 3G for another $50 to truly be independent.

The iPad starts at $499 ($600+ for 3G), plus the monthly service that keeps the iPad from being just a pretty clipboard. So add another $200 a year for the iPad to be useful.

An iPhone is, what? $400 + $300 a year?

And The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is $9.99 at Amazon and I don't know if Apple even has that.

Now here is the cool part: it will still cost you $500 or more to download this book for free from the library because you need a fairly up-to-date notebook computer to run all the software it takes and to have built-in wifi.

And yet, some people think this is the solution to the "library problem," the problem the Sun Sentinel so astutely attributes to libraries as the "cavernous... storehouses from the past." As if everyone has $500 or more to download econtent.

But librarians aren't helping. Read the article to see librarians call their libraries, the "living room of the community," or an "empowerment zone." What the hell are some of us thinking?

What is wrong with "library"? It's great name. But some people think the name should change to reflect the times. No. Just keep directing the service back to the name. DVDs = Library. Ebooks = Library. Job Searching = Library. See? It's easy. You don't need to rename the place The Community Enrichment Station. Because you'll spend the next two years trying to explain that it's the library and not a bus station or a farmer's market. Library is the brand; no rebranding is needed.

I don't know why the Sun Sentinel wants to make libraries appear to their readers as poor community investments. What about the empty Circuit City buildings and the abandoned Linens 'n Things and Albertson's supermarkets all over Florida? A little economic downturn and these companies pull out and leave hundreds jobless. Libraries don't try to turn a profit; they only exist to serve the community. Libraries employ people; librarians assist those who seek employment; and we offer computer and Internet training programs. So why all the hate?

The solution is not to make everyone spend hundreds of dollars on devices which only benefits Apple or Amazon or Google. The solution is to support public libraries so we can continue to buy books and newspapers and econtent and computer hardware and furniture and electricity and gasoline. We receive regular mail and UPS and FedEx and DHL deliveries. The Sun Sentinel is attempting to demonize government because we are building libraries and, God forbid, putting people to work. Here. Locally. We're not manufacturing in China with $1 a day labor. We are part of the community. We don't pack it in because we have a bad Christmas season. When you see a library under construction, the first thing you should think is that your community is important enough to have a library.

I know with November looming, it's trendy to cow to the "tea party" crowd, our future overlords and begin criticizing all government as BAD government. But public libraries are always GOOD government. Unless you just feel that ALL government is bad, then I don't have an argument; you're just evil and probably rich enough to hire someone to beat me up.

Comments

The excuses of politicians

Le sigh. Seeing the same thing in Britain a lot, the "We don't need library services as those kinds of things can be done online" argument forwarded by politicians as a justification for slashing services.

Here's todays, but there are *many* other examples:

http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/edinburgh/Shakeup-is-on-the-cards.6549116.jp

...and the stupid 'justification' within:

"Audiobooks will continue to be stocked, but CDs will be phased out across all branches - except for the Music Library - as council bosses say music is readily available through alternative providers, like iTunes."

GAH! How many patrons don't have online access - guessing a lot. How many of those who do have it are able to handle iTunes, and afford the content (which contains educational) on there?

Right on!

Exactly! I'm a librarian- in a public library. I am not anti-ebook. But please do not forget that there are HUGE disparities in the personal wealth of patrons. Many well-off middle class folks use the library because it's convenient and they believe in libraries. And that's great. But many of the patrons I help every day use the library because they have no other place to go, they don't have a computer at home [and never will], they don't have an Ipod, a kindle, and ipad, or any other gadget that many of us take for granted. Implying that print has no place is wrong. My library is beginning to purchase certain titles only as downloads. In effect, that material is completely inaccessible for most of our patrons at the library I work at [which is the central library for our system].

More broadly, I'm getting really tired of having to defend libraries while we're experiencing through the roof circulation and use.

Hear hear

Enthusiastic applause from somebody who didn't believe the hype from the get-go. There is a place in the future of libraries for technology and technological advances, but they are hardly solutions to all reading needs or library problems.

Leigh Anne

An ebook reader is not only one book

When you write:
"Now here is the cool part: it will still cost you $500 or more to download this book for free from the library because you need a fairly up-to-date notebook computer to run all the software it takes and to have built-in wifi.

And yet, some people think this is the solution to the "library problem," the problem the Sun Sentinel so astutely attributes to libraries as the "cavernous... storehouses from the past." As if everyone has $500 or more to download econtent."

If somebody buys an ebook reader to read only a single book, then that person is a fool. It is not fair to compare any ebook reader to a single book: you must compare it to a library. That is what people who are carrying an ebook reader around are doing. One ebook reader can hold hundreds of books and pretty soon, it may be many, many more. The ebook reader represents a library, and while some of those books may be for money, zillions of others are free, available for download through Google Books, the Internet Archive, lots of other digital books sites, and not all are old materials, e.g. now most think tank publications are available for download. Many journals make significant numbers of articles available for free (or everything for pay) off of the web, and so on.

I love books too, but the economic realities are clear: just as I am running out of space at home for new books, so are many libraries. Buying a book and putting it on a shelf turns out to be very, very expensive; that is, when you are not talking about a couple of shelves of books, but hundreds of thousands or millions of them.

When an organization is thinking of the best ways to spend its shrinking amount of money, is it really in the best interests of its community today to spend it on more space for printed books? Are there options? I think so.

Trends and politics

I agree with the analysis until the last paragraph. Public libraries are a great local resource and an excellent use of tax dollars, for the most part. But then the discussion, with no warning, turns political. Are you suggesting that the Sun-Sentinel is cowering in fear of "the tea party"? Are they (not even an official organization) responsible for the content of the newspaper article? Are you suggesting that "they" have a plan for world domination which involves the destruction of libraries? Please use some of that logic and knowledge to rethink that last paragraph!

Newspapers write what they are told.

You said you don't understand why a newspaper would try to downplay the importance of libraries...

Newspapers write what their owners tell them to. These days most newspapers are owned by Rupert Murdock types. These guys don't want the communities of America to have what libraries provide: education and information. The Murdocks of the world thrive best when the people are uneducated and ill informed. Just as there has been an attack by the conservatives on the "elite" public universities for teaching, ee-gads, progressive ideals and critical thinking, they have now started in on the libraries. The conservatives want to eliminate everything that makes it easier or more likely for the public to stand up to the corporations. Regardless of what libraries provide to the public, the only thing they provide to the corporations are "know it all" workers who have the audacity to ask for a fair wage.

Amen!

"When you see a library under construction, the first thing you should think is that your community is important enough to have a library." Thanks for that.

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