Since it’s National Library Week I invited some fellow bloggers to comment on my recent anti-public library funding post. So far, only one has taken me up on the opportunity, but he did help point out a major weakness in my original post. If you’re looking for some hard numbers on the Santa Clara County Library System you can check out his post – National Library Week – Archaic or Fresh.
It’s an excellent response to my original argument except for one thing: the numbers I was citing in my original post actually covered all seven public library systems located in Santa Clara County: Los Gatos Public Library, Mountain View Library, Palo Alto City Library, San Jose Public Library, Santa Clara City Library, Santa Clara County Library and the Sunnyvale Public Library. Unfortunately, I did not make that clear.
The post concludes with the following-
The primary library I have access to is at a University, and most of their focus is on the acquisition of scholarly works, instead of items of popular fiction.
In these times of internet knowledge, libraries often seem like a thing of the past but I think they have done an admirable job of evolving over the years with the technology to try to keep providing some measure of public service. Once teachers and students realize the differences between an expert source and a peer-created resource such as Wikipedia, I think more emphasis will be placed on libraries once again.
Besides, if we didn’t have libraries, how could we lose our library cards?
With an extra $195 in my pocket (the amount the government takes from me to fund the libraries here) I could easily buy all of the fiction books I wanted. Even more beneficial to me would be to voluntarily pool that money with other interested fiction readers to purchase a pool of fiction works and share them among ourselves. Essentially creating our own private library that serves our needs directly without wasting funds and energy on services we aren’t interested in. Most importantly, everyone involved would have a choice and force would not be used to take from one person in order to give to another.
As for his second point (in the quote above), I couldn’t agree more. I’m constantly fighting against Wikipedia as a “source” document and always seeking primary sources whenever possible. Libraries are excellent for this very purpose. The problem with the argument in this case is that I was not the one arguing that the purpose of libraries in the modern world was to provide internet access. That was the President of the Friends of the Library. I think that the primary purpose of a library should be to provide information that cannot be easily, or affordably, found elsewhere – such as nonfiction works and periodicals.
Again, I’m a big supporter of libraries and would gladly donate money to support those that serve my community well. However, I don’t have the option of doing so because my money is being stolen away from me by the government before I can decide how to spend it.
So, what do you think? Should libraries continue to be funded through force? Would you help financially support a library if one wasn’t provided for you by the government?