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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.