Why Use Libraries?--Buy Books Instead


I can't tell if this guy is dead serious (and small-minded) or ready to pull the satire card. Anyway, Michael Bowers, is awfully cranky about all that wasted taxpayer money that goes to his Orland Park, IL library and bookmobile. Apparently, he's on a tear because the bookmobile was in an accident that the city had to shell out big bucks to cover.

I thought government was to put out fires and defend the borders. Not to give us stuff to read. I mean, thanks to the private sector, it's already everywhere you look. If I simply bought one copy of every magazine offered at the corner Mobil station — covering everything from Kawasaki motorcycles to Esquire women we love to Forbes financial advice — I'd be reading for the next year.

The rest of his loopy rant is here at the Star.


This would seem to be the option--shutting down public/government libraries--that conservatives would endorse. But it seems that conservative librarians don't like this guy. What gives?

not really but a fuller version is this:

I choose free libraries as the best agencies for improving the masses of the people, because they give nothing for nothing. They only help those who help themselves. They never pauperize. They reach the aspiring and open to these chief treasures of the world -- those stored up in books. A taste for reading drives out lower tastes.

Bookmobiles help the homebound access the library.

And if you don't have a decent public transportation system (most US cities do not) then you also help the poor.

Other than that, I don't see a use for bookmobiles. I think I'd rather see USPS media mail subsidized even further. I think some of the Western states in the 1800s did that, so that library books traveled for free with postmen. I'd do something like that, but probably put a limit on it - especially in today's world where you can check the catalog by phone and learn about which book you probably want to request.

I agree with the author in that you should buy books. There are some books that I'm unwilling to pay the $150/$250+ dollars for. However even if I did have the money to buy all the books I wanted, I would *still* pay taxes for a library. I don't own a physical copy of an encyclopedia, or other reference works. And I'd like copies accessible to me, if wikipedia.org should go down. With the government working to restrict the information we pay them to aggregate, with copyrights extending, etc, etc. The library may become the *only* place to get information without paying for every access I might make. eBook licensing and other stuff, is moving towards a pay-per-use. Just like music.

Even if I had all of those, I would still pay taxes. Everyone, regardless of finanaces, should be able to read as much as they can handle. Those who want to help themselves with find help, comfort, and solace in the written words of others.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

Do you have any other details on it?

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL (and also of quotes...)

Does need to be countered.

One thing he doesn't address is the 31s number. That number is not available to people who can't afford a computer, or a computer connection. Where do those people get network access? Libraries.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

I wrote to Mr. Bowers (see below) and he wrote back:

Thanks for your note. Even my fellow conservatives didn't like that column
very much. You will probably be interested in the comments on this thread:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1390450/p osts


Dear Mr. Bowers:
First, tax funds for public libraries is an investment by the county and the state. Such taxes not only are worthwhile for the improvement of the quality of life of the community, but also add to the community's prosperity. Public libraries are much more than havens of recreational books for kiddies, or even some much-needed self-education books for
columnists. Your example of purchasing a book as a one-time purchase from Amazon.com is spurious, and would actually be a foolish waste of tax payers money.
A recent examination of the benefits of public libraries in Florida show that public libraries return $6.54 for every dollar invested in them, and one job is created in the county for every $6,448 that is spent on public libraries from public funding sources. See:

Another recent report from South Carolina show that half the businesses in the state use the library as a primary resource for business
and research information; 3/4 of them said the public library contributed to their success and that not having a public library would have a negative impact on their business. Nearly half of the personal investors surveyed said that investment information from the public library definitely contributed to their financial well being. See:

I tried. I truly truly tried around here. Could you ever imagine members of the Democratic party telling a Republican to not do anything to "rock the boat" by sticking up for a valuable community resource like libraries? That happened a few months ago which is why I suddenly went on hiatus with everything here as two library directors told me it was wrong to even hold a public forum at a local church to talk about possible effects of state-level budget cuts that would filter down to libraries.

And yes, I am the Republican who was told it was not a good idea to stick up for libraries because that would "rock the boat".

A book may be cheap, but books are expensive.

Rochelle posted an email related to ALA getting involved on the Council list. The first reply to it said that the local libraries should respond first and foremost. That I agree with. However this type of editorial is always our Achilles heel and ALA, along with the rest of us, should have some basic points down for this type of arguement.

The idea that books aren't expensive implies that all books are equal and that all reading is the same. We need to be able to tick off at least 5-6 areas where a large collection of books is practically a necessity and also unaffordable to any one person. This includes things like health, history, technology, travel, personal finances, career development, and yes, literature. Simply buying a copy of The Millionaire Next Door is not going to improve everyone's financial situation. A single book on resumes doesn't do much when job hunting. The ability to buy a single novel overlooks the importance of being able to go where the reading urge takes you.

There are plenty of other areas and talking points we have available including online resources and library-as-community-center. But there is also still a lot to be said for the printed word and we should be saying it quickly and easily, like a preacher quoting scripture or a car dealer talking about 4 wheel drive and a V6.

"This would seem to be the option--shutting down public/government libraries--that conservatives would endorse."

It only seems that way if you can't see beyond your own politics. Andrew Carnegie said it best:

"I choose free libraries as the best
agencies for improving the masses of
the people, because they give nothing
for nothing. They only help those who
help themselves."

I'm embarrassed to say that the Star was my hometown newspaper back when I lived in the Chicago 'burbs. It's really a crappy rag--my family didn't even subcribe to it, and we only bought copies when they ran the high school honor roll so my brother and I could see our names in the paper (whoopee!)

I wrote to the guy yesterday. He wrote me back and was, frankly, very pleasant. I think I'm going to send in my address/phone number so they'll consider my letter for publication. Then I'll make my mom pick up a copy so I can see my name in the paper. It'll be just like making the honor roll!


According to one of my co-workers at my part-time job, which is at a library close to OPPL, this is his modus operandi.

How angry can someone be that the books.com stock they bought tanked?

I guess he wants his Amazon stock to go up in value now so he is pumping for more book sales. I bet this guy is first in line to pass out tax dollars to whichever group made him feel guilty this week.

Maybe it is just my jaundiced worldview living in Ashtabula County but such thinking by the editorial's writer is just destructive deconstructionism. One can apply that to many other local government services like policing, fire and rescue, and more on the grounds that it is cheaper and easier to not pay for staff who sit around waiting for calls and would to some be considered wasted payroll if never deployed to a call. Goodness gracious I face that scary threat now! Too many local residents feel that we need nothing (no police, no fire, no hospital, ambulance services even further privatized beyond what they are now, no schools, etc.) and that it is every man for himself and every man's guarantee of freedom is his (though lately around here it would more be her ) gun. And this in one of the bluest counties politically in Ohio!

The destructive deconstructionism put by the writer is truly tempting, especially in times of recession and "tax revolt". How are we indispensible to a community? What benefit do we bring?

This is one of those areas we really need ALA's help and we need ALA to provide leadership to state affiliates. In Ohio I see no campaigning in the face of impending budget cuts. Rather I have only seen a "let's not antagonize Columbus" view expressed where librarians frequently just put their heads in the sand until it is too late for them to save their own hides. I have also heard librarians take the "thank you may I have another" stand when it comes to library cuts. All of this while defending causes of intellectual freedom so abstract that the local populace could care less and would start to wonder whether money should be redirected to "tax relief" instead.

Why does ALA worry about denouncing terrorism abroad while the homeland's libraries are collapsing in some areas because they cannot adequately justify their existence?

Depending upon local editorial policy one might be very much so ignored if one is not located in the paper's local community. One should not hesitate to respond but do not be surprised if the writer (who is one of the copyeditors) "mysteriously has an accident" with your e-mail message where it winds up lost. I know my local paper seems to deliberately mess with submitted letters when they don't like the writer so that they make the writer look like an idiot so such is not a farfetched possibility.

I concur...I just do not have the money on-hand to do such myself...

Send it. You may not reach him, but you might reach other Star readers. This article *needs* a rebuttal.

Why give Amazon cards? Heck why not just burn all the books too? Because, as you know, all information can be found on The Internet

The part I love is where he doesn't mention how people without computers are going to access these book ordering sites? Maybe we should go over to his house to use his computer?

At the risk of sounding "Blog People"ish, I think some of the Chicago-area librarians should rebutt this article. The loss of the bookmobile is a blow, and this guy takes the opportunity to twist the knife.

I'll...send him a check for $155 if he promises never to use the library again.

I'm the Curmudgeony Librarian and I support this message.

And tomorrow I'm closing the library for good.

Seriously though, we'd better learn how to respond to that line of thinking, because it is going to keep coming up.

Think about it: books are cheap. Libraries are expensive.

Libraries also provide terrorists (anonymous) access to governmnet data, and sex offenders free access to porn.

Maybe we should give out amazon gift cards instead of library cards.

i was thinking about sending this guy an email, and an editorial to the paper, but there's not going to be any way to make him consider a different opinion.

this guy makes steam blow out of my ears.

and I'm not that much of a nutjob. They must be hard up for columnists. Mike Royko he ain't.

I'll pry open my wallet and send him a check for $155 if he promises never to use the library again.