Largely free access to ideas and information remains the foundational role of a public library. Without that, the extension of the authorial community from beyond the privileged in society could never have happened. How can we truly understand storytelling when we have not read widely? And libraries generate that appetite for the written word that creates the readership that will buy our books!
“Last July an economics professor at Long Island University published an article in Forbes arguing that public libraries should be closed because they had outlived their usefulness now that Netflix streams movies, Starbucks offers free Wi-Fi, and, most conveniently, electronic books are instantly available from Amazon. Closing libraries in favour of Amazon would be a win-win, he said, because taxes would go down while Amazon’s share price would go up. The professor was especially enamoured of the company’s cashier-less storefronts, which, in his estimation, ‘basically combines a library with a Starbucks.’ The ‘library’ being referred to, it should be noted, is a commercial enterprise that sells books.”
“The reaction to the article, once readers realized that it wasn’t satire, was outrage and ridicule, and Forbes removed it from its website about seventy-two hours after it was posted. But the funny thing was that, inadvertently, the writer had made a strong case for the value and continued existence of the public library.”
From ‘In Praise of Public Libraries‘ by Sue Halpern in The New York Review of Books of April 18th