An article by Panos Mourdoukoutas, posted on Forbes, has caused quite an uproar in the library community. Mourdoukoutas is Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post in New York and he also teaches at Columbia University. After reading the article, his profession baffles me. Why? Keep reading.
I’m going to take his points and just drop a little knowledge (which I am not the first to do – I am LOVING everyone on Twitter and on social media, in general, who are sharing the ways he is mistaken).
I’ve seen on my feed that Amazon was opening physical bookstores. I think that’s great. I live in an area that doesn’t really have a bookstore, local or otherwise (I have to drive about 40 minutes to get to the closest one), so if Amazon were to open a bookstore near me – I’d be excited about it. Also, I spend A LOT OF MONEY ON THINGS FROM AMAZON. Books, toilet paper, toys, clothes – everything and anything comes from Amazon to my house and I love them for it. So, I am in no way against bookstores or Amazon. I love them both.
Mourdoukoutas’ take is that if Amazon opens a location in every local community, communities could then shut down their public libraries and save all the money! His way of thinking is that the amount of taxes we pay that currently go to libraries, would then go back into our pocket?! YES, taxpayer money goes to funding libraries (this is not the only way libraries receive funds, but this is the bread and butter and without those taxes, libraries essentially close). However, does he really believe our government would take that money and give it back to us?!? Let’s pretend this crazy thing happened and we stopped having libraries and just purchased all of our reading from Amazon storefronts – THE GOVERNMENT WOULD USE THAT MONEY FOR SOMETHING ELSE!!!
He goes on to explain that no one needs libraries, because Amazon will give us the books, magazines, and digital media we want. He is missing the fact that not everyone can PURCHASE the materials they are interested in reading or viewing. There are families with 0 disposable income. Families who depend on the library for any and all entertainment needs. Libraries are critical to early literacy. He needs to actually visit his local public library soon. Maybe he doesn’t realize the materials available to him ARE FREE?!?
He also states that libraries are used for community events, and so what?! Go somewhere else, he says. The problem here is that he obviously has never planned or hosted an event. If you do it somewhere else, you often HAVE TO PAY. Again, why pay for a meeting space or a performance space when I can use my library FOR FREE?!? And, going back to those families with 0 disposable income…an event that takes place somewhere else would most often come with some sort of ticket price attached. Not everyone can pay to take their entire family to an event.
The biggest point he is missing from an economic viewpoint – is that libraries help communities MAKE MONEY AND THRIVE. Public libraries are a place for folks who do not have computers or internet access at home to go and fill out job applications, to send out resumes, to GET JOBS. Public libraries offer resume assistance and career fairs and have books about getting the job you want. They help small business owners with their companies. All of this brings money into local communities. How is he missing this?!?! Here is a link to a study done in South Carolina proving the economic impact libraries have in South Carolina – it is an older study, but I am certain the facts remain the same and I am certain it is not special or unique to South Carolina.
I hope he is taking all of these links and information that library supporters are sharing with him to heart and that he revisits his views on the economy of libraries. I also hope he’s headed out to his public library for a library card today!
What are your thoughts?