Is It Time to Get Rid of Libraries?

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Despite the general leftward trend of librarians on an organizational level, libraries once served a useful function. Once. If the New York Public Library experience can be generalized, the modern library is a place that has few books and a lot of internet terminals and free laptops for homeless people who want to check their Facebook accounts (yes that’s a thing) or watch YouTube videos.

The latest begging letter from the library urging politicians not to cut funds emphasizes the role of the library in

1. Teaching English to immigrants

2. Providing financial literacy courses

3. Teen hangouts

Books aren’t even mentioned. And with good reason. If you can find your way past the stacks of DVDs and random handouts and begging letter table, the computers terminals and the teens squatting on beanbag cushions with their library laptops, you may eventually be lucky enough to find some books. Probably you won’t.

Libraries are cutting their book collections. But you will find libraries being used to push the latest social agendas. Including ObamaCare.

The nation’s librarians will be recruited to help people get signed up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to get information and crucial computer time to the millions of uninsured Americans who need to get coverage under the law…

Libraries equipped with public computers and Internet access already serve as a bridge across the digital divide, so it made sense to get them involved, said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services…

Libraries also have public spaces where meetings can be held. And they already provide health information to 28 million people a year via public access computers, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal grant-making agency, which will coordinate the new effort with CMS. The two federal agencies also worked together during the rollout of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, experience that should help with this effort, Bataille said.

Libraries will be particularly important in conservative states that are not making much effort to promote the health law’s opportunities.

The library is rapidly becoming a community center rather than a place with books. This is just the natural next step in the process. Being a book lover, it’s hard for me to say this, but if this is what the librarians have in mind for libraries, then it may be time to kill the funding and shut them down.

  • Paula Douglas

    Completely agree. For years I have been angered by my itemized tax bills that show the huge chunk of change that goes to the public library. And why, exactly? There’s nothing in a library that can’t be obtained more easily, cheaply, conveniently, and quickly on Amazon.com or a home computer. The same goes for PBS: with over a dozen cable learning/history/science channels available for a fraction of what we pay to PBS, there’s no rational justification (nor has there ever been a *rational* one) for extorting tax money in support of government-run television. The outrageous fact that both PBS and public libraries are ready-made, easily corruptible propaganda instruments for the state is reason enough to eliminate them at once. As a book-lover myself, I want to see them liberated from libraries.

    • Harry Black

      In other words, let those students and researchers eat Amazon!

      • Paula Douglas

        I don’t care what they eat, as long as they buy it themselves and stop picking my pockets.

        • Guest

          I hope they keep on picking your pocket. In a democratic society the majority rules and in this democratic society–it still is a democracy despite the best efforts of the Tea Party and the wild-eyed followers of Ayn Rand–the majority still favors libraries, public education, PBS, and support for the arts–in other words the accoutrements of civilization. I guess Ms Douglas wants a society of libertarian barbarism in which almost no one can write a decent research paper because he/she can’t afford to buy 200 books on Amazon. Meanwhile, I deeply appreciate the donations Ms Douglas is making to the public good by paying her taxes! IRS forever!

        • Harry Black

          I hope they keep on picking Ms Douglas’ pocket. In a democratic society the
          majority rules and in this democratic society–it still is a democracy
          despite the best efforts of the Tea Party and the wild-eyed followers of
          Ayn Rand–the majority still favors libraries, public education, PBS,
          and support for the arts–in other words the accoutrements of
          civilization. I guess Ms Douglas wants a society of libertarian
          barbarism in which almost no one can write a decent research paper
          because he/she can’t afford to buy 200 books on Amazon. Meanwhile, I
          deeply appreciate the donations Ms Douglas is making to the public good
          by paying her taxes! IRS forever!

        • Will

          You should be asking them to keep picking your pockets, because in this instance it’s saving you money. If you stop paying taxes to libraries, you’ll end up paying, on average, 5 times more to pay for the police and social workers who will be helping these same underprivileged people, as well as footing tax bills for more emergency medical services and fuller prisons.

          When the choice is paying to put people in cages in misery, or paying LESS and giving them a chance to pick themselves up and become a more contributing source to society, it shouldn’t be difficult for most people to come to a conclusion.

          Ms. Douglas, I highly suggest you visit the library and do some research on the full measure of what you do before you so brazenly declare them thieves.

          • Paula Douglas

            I see: so you’re making investment decisions for me. Let me jot a note to myself to be grateful. Somehow I don’t think that lack of access to back issues of Car & Driver magazine is what’s putting people in prison. Thieves? That would be relatively honorable, compared to the contemptible, coward’s method of getting my money: having your elected officials do it for you.

      • Isabel Herron

        like Alexander replied I didn’t even know that any body can make $6602 in 1 month on the internet. have you read this webpage w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

    • Crystal Megaridis

      Wow, Ms. D, you really think your cable / Internet bills are lower than what you pay for the library per annum? You really need to pull out your property tax bill and see the actual cost you pay for the library — compared to all the other tax components, it is miniscule, and most likely the very smallest on the entire bill! You pay far, far less for your local library than what you pay for your home Internet access or your cable tv or Amazon purchases.
      Clearly, you also need to walk into your library and find out what your library actually provides — I think you will be shocked — it provides a far wider selection of databases, books, magazines, newspapers, shows, and movies than you can get anywhere else, with all viewpoint covered. It’s not “skewed” left or right – it’s got everything, or can obtain anything it doesn’t have onsite from the vast network of lending libraries it belongs to. And, once you have a library card, you can access much of it right away from your home computer, without even going to your library.
      Since you are so concerned about spending the few tax dollars you are already obligated to pay, I am baffled why you would ALSO spend your money on Amazon/Cable/Internet, when you get all that content, and more, for those few tax dollars from your local public library.

      • Paula Douglas

        For the same reason I drive a car instead of taking a public bus or train, even though I’m also paying to subsidize that. For the same reason that parents who are forced to pay for public schools put their kids in private schools. It’s depraved to stick a gun to someone’s head, raid their wallet, throw their money into a common trough, and then point to that trough and proclaim its greatness. I could give a crap about the wondrous things my tax dollars provide to people too lazy and cheap to buy them for themselves. My problem is with the principle that my money is not my own, and with the fact that what I earn goes to finance other people’s wish lists. Everything a library can offer, and a lot more, is available through the marketplace to anyone who knows they have no right to suck off of other people. It’s patently NOT “far less” in terms of costs, either, when you add my tax bill to the bills of everyone else in the county, plus the cost of running the place, plus the cost of the government machinery that collects the tax money and flings it around. When I pay for Amazon or cable or internet access, I’m paying for ME. With MY money. If I don’t like what they offer, I can cancel my subscriptions or take my business elsewhere. What’s my recourse when the library displeases me? You think they’ll give me a refund? You think they’ll refund my money if I say I haven’t used a public library for 25 years? If you want what a library has to offer, then YOU pay for it. I resent being parasitized to support public libraries, and I further resent the suggestion that I should enjoy the benefits of parasitizing other people by using them.

        • Crystal Megaridis

          I am delighted to see how riled up you got from my comment, Ms. D! I can also see, unfortunately, you did not take a look at your tax bill. You would have responded differently had you done as I asked. Regardless – you have options! Since you feel so strongly about not wanting to pay your taxes, it’s simple – move to an unincorporated part of your town – then you don’t have to pay for your library, fire, police or other shared services that help a town be a civilized society – it’s as simple as that. You don’t need any shared services, since you are apparently above such things.(My GAWD, how could I read, let alone TOUCH a book that was read by another person in town?!?) Cheerio, Dahling!

          • Paula Douglas

            Well, if you don’t have a concept of self, or privacy, or pride, or accomplishment, then I guess I can see why you have no objection to effectively living in a commune in which everyone sucks off people more productive than they are. There’s a big difference between the police and the library when it comes to legitimate government functions, and there’s nothing civilized about using the government to stick up your neighbors for the stuff you’re not willing to pay for. If you were honest and had a set, you’d break into your neighbors’ homes and steal their money yourself. But it’s so much more delightful to ignore how the sausage gets made: It lets you pretend that you’re all civilized and sophisticated. Or something. If my share of the library tax was fifty cents my answer would have been the same. Some of us can think in and apply principles.

        • Ronald Bandor

          You could make the same argument about roads you don’t use, a fire department you’ve never needed, or wars you don’t support. But, that’s how our country works. If you don’t like it, find another.

          • Paula Douglas

            In fact I do make the same argument about those things. How much use one might make of a thing is secondary to the fact that using force to get the amenities or services you want is wrong: it’s wrong when a burglar does it, and it’s wrong when a gang of burglars-in-spirit votes in a government that will do it for them. The principle involved can be stated as, “Take what you want, and pay for it.” That principle is the same for all of the examples you give: if you want a service or product, then YOU pay for it, and stop sticking a gun to your neighbors’ heads to force them into paying for it. If people paid voluntarily into the government, it would be very likely to have enough money to defend the country from real enemies but not enough to involve it in one useless, self-defeating war after another. As it happens, that arrangement is how this country worked at its inception. As for your glib assertion that “that’s how things work,” the same comment was equally illogical and equally invalid morally when it was used to dismiss objections to slavery, to name just one example. Is that what passes for patriotism now? “We suck off each other here. If you want freedom, find another country”? Pathetic.

        • Gecki

          Glad you have a job or are well off to have all these knowledge outlets .Don’t be a miser and allow the less well off to share yr. bounty through taxes

          • Daniel Greenfield

            The less well off experts collecting six figure consulting gigs to discuss how to transform the library?

    • VTLibrarian

      And I really can’t stand my taxes going to corporate welfare and the Dept. of Defense! Can I choose not to send my taxes there, but to libraries instead?

    • Jean Foster

      Wait, there are educational channels on cable? I dropped cable because I was paying too much for a load of crap. Duck Dynasty? Ice Road Truckers? Here Comes Honey Booboo? Yeah, cable is just chock full of quality educational programming.

      And for the record, it’s actually more convenient for me to get on my computer, place a hold on a book at my public library and then walk the five blocks down the street to pick it up. Even with Amazon Prime, I can get what I’m looking for faster, and when I’m finished with it, it won’t sit around my house collecting dust.

  • Spikey1

    “And they already provide health information to 28 million people a year via public access computers”

    So pop up ads are considered to be providing health information.

  • tagalog

    While it’s true that libraries have become gathering-places for the derelicts of a given city, and for kids to hang out, and so on, it’s also true that people are borrowing books as never before, both the poor and the elderly as well as all sorts of other people. The operation of libraries should be referred to the voters, together with a referendum on making libraries refuges for the homeless, who have lots of other options available. The homeless in the libraries are MY pet peeve. Unless they’re there to read, they ought to made to stay out.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      “The operation of libraries should be referred to the voters, together with a referendum on making libraries refuges for the homeless, who have lots of other options available.”

      As always, liars from the left take established, popular ideas and subvert them as if they’re carrying on traditions while in fact they are trying to destroy all of our traditions.

      Most of the money seems to be going for activities are all about social engineering and “social justice” not about encouraging literacy. This is not to say that libraries can’t change with the times when it can be justified, but they should do it honestly and keep with the core mission.

      • tagalog

        Funny you should mention that. I wrote a letter a while ago to my city’s Library District, complaining about the homeless and how they dominate the computers with net surfing, get their filth all over the chairs, use the bathrooms to take baths, socialize at the top of their voices, and otherwise turn the public library into a pool hall, and got a message back asserting that they use the computers to compose and print out their resumes and that compassion for the poor requires us to be patient with their deviant ways.
        I thought seriously about doing what I can to get on the board of directors of the library district (I have a friend who’s on the library board) and turning things around, but no use: everyone’s afraid of getting involved in an ACLU lawsuit. I wish some city would resist the ACLU through court action, but no, the economy and the culture militate against it. Too bad…

        • Rocky Mountain

          I’ve seen this problem in some public libraries and it is a thorny issue. This is not a solution but I’m fortunate to current live in a place where there are no homeless people and I know the head of the branch will not tolerate any funny business even if there were such unfortunate folks. Thus, all libraries have not descended into an urban hellhole and they serve and absolutely valuable purpose.

          • ReyR

            How very cheerful, your life in an isolated community will inspire the rest of the world, and America continues on the shiny path to its rosy future. Except us lot, pathetic bigots, ordered by the Rocky Mountain mastermind to pine away along with the hysterical Alex Jones. But seriously, man, even if like yourself I live in a more or less bum-free town, I observe that libraries have changed everywhere. In France, in the US, and also here in Russia. Libraries are just one of the many things that defy recognition after a couple of decades.
            Oh, and self-aggrandizement is not the Russian way, dear. We leave that to the Americans. After all, you guys won that big war in 1945. We were just standing there holding the candle, weren’t we? Anyway, we Russkis can’t hope to claim that grandeur that only befits the gringos…

          • ReyR

            And on a more serious note again. Like yourself, sir, I used to be a library addict. To libraries, not bookstores, nor even to schools, I owe most of my education. Once not only a twice-a-week user, but also a contributor, with many books from my own collection ending up in a local library. But the arrival of the PC changed it all. Alas, even when the bright teens keep their mouths shut, mouse clicking, key tapping, and emotional noises from before the computers disrupt my feeble thinking processes. But then most of the time they also use their telephones. I know this is just another fossil wailing, but I do remember the age when subtle turning of pages was the only sound in the room. Let alone changes on the bookshelves. I do mind too much choice. I have survived the Soviet Union, with its absurd restrictions and near-servitude and sheer stupidity, and at the time books were the only gulp of fresh air. Some of truly good books were banned and we had to get them in a clandestine cloak-and-dagger way. I have known people who paid a dear price for reading a wrong book. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was quite symbolic for us, and still remains so. I am not a conspiracy freak, nor red to the core, I’ve been around enough to conclude: things HAVE changed, and so have public libraries. But of course they are not going anywhere. They have become too good a tool for the Big Brother, and He will use them to exhaustion. Let’s not forget that Orwell’s Winston Smith was a librarian, too.

  • objectivefactsmatter

    Libraries are one of the many fronts in the war for “social justice” (destroying capitalism).

  • ReyR

    I totally agree. Here in Russia, we observe the same thing. But let’s be optimistic, because everything runs its course and expires. Libraries started out as private collections by individuals who craved knowledge. Now they are merely the one of the many tools used to bleed and dumb down the public.
    I don’t remember who said it, “Every great change begins as a grass root movement, then becomes a business, and ends up as a racket”. The volumes in my home library will never demand extra spending, they will not ask for a librarian, nor will they want to become a ‘local communication center’. And even if the lights go out, their pages remain as readable as ever.

    • Rocky Mountain

      Please tell me how they are used to “dumb down the public”? I can go to my public library and check out books from every political persuasion and every social and historical perspective. I can obtain books that are pro-Darwinism and books that are anti-Darwinism and every other pro- and anti- imaginable. Many public libraries are Federal Repositories and I can obtain thousands upon thousands of Federal Documents often with the assistance of a specialist.
      It has occurred to me that many people posting on the internet are convinced that they hold or have some access to knowledge that the average person doesn’t have or can’t get and they use this for the purposes of self-aggrandizement. You’d be better off sticking to Alex Jones’ site.

  • Naresh Krishnamoorti

    Public libraries are the worst places for book lovers. Go to university libraries.

    • Rocky Mountain

      If they’ll let you in and many will not unless you are a student or have made some other kind of arrangement. Having recently spent some time in the wonderful Furman University library I can say it is an incredible place for book lovers (but why do you have to be a ‘book lover’ to simply be interested in the world?) but it has a different orientation and I can name a couple of big city libraries that are great places for book lovers; i.e. The Denver Public library and the Ithaca, NY public library. Even a small out of the way place with a wealthy tax base like Eagle, Colorado has an incredible public library.

  • Rocky Mountain

    I am a rabid, if not obsessive, user of public libraries and some of the problems described do exist. The bigger the library; i.e. main libraries in large urban areas, the bigger the problem. However, in the last two smallish towns I have lived the local libraries thrive to the point that it is sometimes difficult to get a parking spot and my current hometown is literally without homeless people so any interior crush is not created by odoriferous street dwellers. I would hazard a guess that Ms. Douglas is angered by a good many things that don’t bring her some immediate personal benefit. And despite the fact that libraries do seem to want to bring English language skills to the mass of the great unwashed and perhaps illegal, they also bring literacy, knowledge, the opportunity to meet kindred (literate) souls, and the pure pleasure of peaceful wandering through shelves of books on every conceivable subject, very few of which would ever be seen by creatures living at the bottom of the ‘Amazon’. I guarantee that you would be hard pressed to run across many, if any, of the books that I routinely see and am tantalized by, a quick jaunt down one of the small number of aisles in my local branch library. Heaven forbid that a few tax dollars are at issue when this is one of the great institutions in American life. Nationally, the average cost to the taxpayer for access to the wide range of public-library resources is $31 a year, about the cost of one hardcover book

  • Softly Bob

    At one time during less godless days, libraries performed a valuable service. Even if they were funded by taxpayers, most taxpayers were happy with this as it meant that anyone even the poorest members of society had access to books, and books meant knowledge. Knowledge could lead to jobs, and knowledge was the bastion of free speech.
    Nowadays books have become politically-biased tomes of propaganda, and libraries have become technological community hang-outs. It is time to stop using public funds to finance libraries.

    • CDavis

      “politically-biased tomes of propaganda” …if you think libraries are politically biased, you need to visit one and look up the definition of biased. Every library carries equal information on both sides of any issue….ah but therein lies your issue. What you really want is a library that provides “politically-biased tomes of propaganda” for your chosen agenda.

  • Jeff Weiss

    Let me summarize this article and most of the comments: I got mine, the rest of you can pound sand.

    • Anonymous

      Bravo! I agree totally!

    • Daniel Greenfield

      You just summarized the liberal response to any criticism. Either that or accusations of racism.

      • Jeff Weiss

        Thin skin much Daniel? I think you are the perfect Frontpage rag writer. Cast aspersions on anyone who disagrees with your echo chamber. Try not to get too much David Horowitz on your nose during your fellowship.

        • Daniel Greenfield

          “Cast aspersions on anyone who disagrees with your echo chamber.”

          Sums up your first comment nicely

  • CDavis

    having spent my entire life in the service of libraries and the public,
    frankly I’m appalled at how the public misses the point of our
    libraries. Libraries were created to disseminate information to the
    public, especially those that do not have access to formal education,
    including education on health services. The very essence of a library is
    for exactly what was barely touched upon here….and that is to provide
    access to information that, if left to the hands of other government
    entities, would be hidden. Obamacare is a perfect example. In
    conservative states, this information is more than hidden to the general
    public and their only access to unbiased information is from their
    local libraries. The foundation of libraries is as simple as creating an
    informed and literate public, including the poor, immigrants and those
    who seek out information in all it’s forms. Somehow the vision of a
    library as a recreational reading center, over the years has taken a
    back seat to the library’s true purpose…disseminating information to
    the public and ensuring that all views are represented. I understand the lament of the the book,
    believe me I do, but pleasure reading is not the basis for libraries. I
    also understand the usual plethora of comments on the poor abusing the
    library for social media, remember I’ve spent many years in our
    libraries. In order to keep funding, many libraries have put their focus
    on services that tickle the fancy of the elite in order to preserve a
    few of the services to the needy. Now I see post after post of angry
    taxpayers who basically want to remove anyone from the library who
    doesn’t fit their mold. Sad to say, that from the replies here it
    appears that no one is really interested in ensuring we have an informed
    and literate public. They’d rather keep the masses uninformed and
    illiterate. I agree libraries have lost their value, because in today’s
    mixed up world we can’t see the value of an educated and literate public
    with access to unbiased information. It’s never been about books or
    formats of information, it’s been about having libraries provide
    information and guidance to those who need information, but don’t have
    the skills or financial means to obtain it.

    • Frances Callero

      Perfectly said!!!!!

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Libraries disseminate books. Not “information” in the abstract.

  • Tom

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqYHqqVUko4
    Are libraries important community places?

  • Jennifer Franz
  • LGlisson

    I am an academic librarian in a large city. It is not true that libraries are no longer collecting books. When a book is not available in our system, I often help students find it at one of our public libraries. If we want young people to read and to think critically, we should encourage library visits. Andrew Carnegie rightly understood that the cornerstone of a free society is an informed and educated public. When reference librarians help patrons find books and information, the patrons’ political opinions are immaterial. The great thing about libraries is that they serve people from all sides of the political spectrum and from all walks of life. That is why they should continue to be funded.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      A lot of older books are being purged from the system entirely.

  • http://www.mygeekygeekyways.com Starman

    As a youth advocate, the most disturbing aspect of this article for me was the idea that the library has no value as a teen hangout. While I’m sure the presence of young people in the library is a worrying aspect for many older library patrons, I would think most would see the value in offering teenagers a safe place to go after-school where they can socialize with peers while waiting for Mom or Dad to get off work. This is especially important in neighborhoods where the school campuses are locked down immediately after classes end and students are not even allowed to wait on the sidewalk outside the school. I’d rather suffer the annoyance of stifled giggles and half-whispers in the stacks than leave little Bobby and Susie out on the street with the drug-dealers and the gang members.

    I also have no problem with the idea of my tax dollars going to fund ESL programs for immigrants. I can only speak for my city, but my annual tax contribution to the library is less than the cost of one hard-cover book. So long as I check out one best-seller per year, I am getting my money’s worth at the very least! And I consider anything that goes toward helping people who seek to better themselves to be a worthwhile investment.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      The library was already a safe place for teens to go.

  • ellenhopkins

    As a young adult author who regularly visits public libraries, I can attest to the fact that not only are there books there, but teens read them. They borrow them. They share them. They READ them. Younger children are read stories at libraries, from books! They learn to love books. Inner city and poor children learn to love them, too…. kids whose parents could never afford to buy them books. Some things are worth investing a few tax dollars in. Like fostering a literate society. Immigrants? Do they not deserve the right to read, or participate in programs that will teach them English and help them become more productive citizens?

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Anyone can learn to read. That’s not the purpose of a library.

  • rivenhomewood

    I’m curious – When was the last time you actually went to a library? I find that most people who say the kind of things this article says actually haven’t been to a library in years.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Today

  • ellenhopkins

    How about this, if you’re confused about what librarians do? http://bestofpublib.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/library-one-liners/

  • booker

    so…if I get the idea, anything you (the author) don’t agree with (or just too ignorant to understand) should just not happen. You don’t like healthcare reforms, so no one should have access about it. You don’t like libraries, so no one should have them. Yeah, that makes sense in a democratic society. I’m sure the founding fathers would have loved your stance that unless it’s good for you, don’t do it. Applying your logic then…This publication allows hate-mongering, biased anti-freedom-of-choice authors to publish. It should be denied access to post online and relegated only to the bottom of my bird cage. I know this for a fact because I based all my assumptions on one article. yep, that’s fair.

    • polianalyst

      “objectivefactsmatter” blew her brains out with her 2nd paragraph.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      I like libraries. I don’t like the destruction of libraries in the name of social justice.

  • Mahasamatman

    This is not what librarians want for libraries, it’s really truly not, specifically the lack of books. But it is the perception of that most people have, thus you do see some folks adopting it by slimming collections in favor of a purely online library. And as it is, though that seems to be just a failure of a idea for academic libraries and most public libraries, the perception that books are no longer necessary in physical form is really just becoming dominant. I’m afraid that this will really hurt academic libraries in the long run, but it’s hard to blame people who make decisions on what a library should have from not being influence by the public. Here’s to hoping something changes and people become more cognizant of what value print has versus electronic media, in volume if nothing else.

  • Ken the Librarian

    This piece serves to expound only the author’s agenda rather than a discussion piece about the multilateral uses of libraries. The author ‘ought’ to visit with us ‘leftward’ librarians so we can introduce him to the last twenty-five centuries of the great human conversation more broadly, then set-up a Shared Discussion group in one of our cool meeting spaces. Some of that conversation that was once in moldering ol’ books are now conveniently found online, leaving room for other accessible uses.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Books, Ken. The focus is books.

      • Ken the Librarian

        Books were simply those things that came after scrolls. If the Internet had been invented first, libraries would have been about the Internet and you’d be complaining about books. Libraries are about information transfer – the medium is no longer so rigid. A completely bookless library isn’t likely to be as useful, but a library without all the other fine mediums isn’t as useful either – including meeting spaces where conversations, business, artistry can have a place.

        • Daniel Greenfield

          The internet doesn’t require a library. If books are surplus, then we can dispose of libraries.

          Might want to think about that.

          • Ken the Librarian

            People without Internet do need free libraries, as many as 1/3 of the population of the U.S., who cannot afford to pay for Internet, or have a home computer. You say that the Internet doesn’t require a library. The Internet has what service to provide instructional and searchable context to its user? Search engines do not provide intellectual context; search engines provide the context of who paid the most to ensure their entry was listed highest.

            The world needs libraries that provide pathways to multiple mediums. Books are an important way, but they are not the only path to education and information provision.

          • Daniel Greenfield

            It would be cheaper to subsidize broadband, which we are already doing to some extent. And within a decade we are likely to reach the point where 99 percent of the population has access to smartphones.

            And what happens to the library then if it’s nothing more than a really expensive internet terminal?

            The internet already is a service. Google provides rankings based on pagelinks. Its first entry on any topic is usually the non-profit Wikipedia.

            And the library doesn’t provide intellectual context either, if it’s stripping away the books and just giving people access to terminals.

            The world needs libraries that safeguard the culture of reading and the libraries of books, instead of disposing of the books, many of which are irreplaceable, or making them harder to come by in order to build “futuristic” bookless libraries that are already outdated.

  • Anna Popp

    When libraries started, (especially in the US) they contained books because that was the primary vehicle for capturing and sharing information.Libraries worked with patrons to access, interpret and understand information, not merely to house scholarly works. All comers were welcome and library staff were expected to assist. For those who question that, I refer them to Samuel Green’s respected 1876 work “Personal Relationships Between Libraries and Users”. Libraries certainly weren’t limited to books – they also collected news, clippings and brochures in their vertical files. Later on also lending artwork, and venerated games like chess. Now it just so happens that today’s world has many vehicles for capturing and sharing information. We need to have the devices (computers, for example) available in order to assist the “unlearned person” (as Green would have referred to the patron) with securing and understanding the information they require.

    The author of this article is clearly narrow minded and has a very limited view of the applications of libraries. It sounds to me like he would more value a building filled to the brim with Danielle Steele and Twilight novels than he does the institutions with digital only access to Lexis-Nexis and Harvard Business Review.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Computers are mainly used for social media games in libraries.

  • Paula Douglas

    It’s not a democracy and was never intended to be a democracy. It was designed as a constitutionally limited republic, in which the mob was rendered impotent in its attempts against the rights of the individual.

    • ilaughatnotwith

      …and if it were a democracy, the majority, who oppose government healthcare, would not need their libraries involved in this discussion.

  • Michelle

    Wow, this is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever read. Would you prefer immigrants not to speak English at all? Do you want your neighborhood teens roaming the streets, possibly getting up to no good or getting involved in gangs when they could be in a safe environment surrounded by books and, yes, computers that provide entertainment to them? (My library lends video games, yes, VIDEO GAMES mostly for that demographic. GASP. I know I’d prefer my teens to have to find their own entertainment somehow!) Should homeless people not take advantage of a FREE website where they can stay in touch with people? And you are deluded if you think libraries are no longer getting or carrying books. Mine bought a series of books just because I asked them to. The popularity of ereaders is increasing the drive for libraries to purchase and lend out downloadable materials, which may be why you believe they don’t have as many paper books. PLUS there is more interlibrary lending going on, so it may not be necessary for a library to buy a certain book if they can get it from another easily, making their shelves look more bare. It’s called cost cutting. I thought you conservatives were pros at that.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      I would prefer that a library focus on its core purpose instead of trading that core purpose for a social services agency.

  • polianalyst

    Some folks posting here seem to be arguing for Darwinian economics. Libraries are not just for you, they are for everyone. Same for wars, roads, disaster relief, education, and taxes. Not everything can be run on the basis of the “survival of the fittest” and “me-first” ideologies. Our country was founded by self-obsessed outcasts holding “traditions” like slavery who held that an “informed and literate public” was a threat. Can we get on to “human nature” now, instead of acting like “lower” animals?

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Libraries aren’t for me or you… they’re for books.

  • Bean

    Newsflash. Libraries have ALWAYS been community centers. They have ALWAYS been about integrating immigrant populations and teaching English. You are a journalist. Read up on Andrew Carnegie. Do some research.

    Not sure which branch of the NYPL you hang out in, but that hasn’t been my experience. I go there. I see people reading. Why should it matter if they are on beanbags or using ebooks? They are reading.

  • Qin Tang

    “you may eventually be lucky enough to find some books. Probably you won’t.” Please tell me which library you are talking about. Have you visited any libraries like that? This is unbelievable.

    I think the author’s viewpoint is narrow-minded and wrong. Library IS a community center AND a place with books. Books come in different formats and ways. Just because you don’t see a lot of books on the shelves doesn’t mean library is not a place with books.

    And what’s wrong with teaching English to immigrants? I am glad some libraries do that. Don’t you know that most Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants? The majority of immigrants are highly skilled and educated people. Or they are hardworking people. Educated or not, they all help make this country great. Can you imagine this country without immigrants?

    I came to the US as an immigrant. I learned and improved my English most through my local public library by reading books. I loved visiting libraries and what libraries could do for people like me. And that’s how I got my second master’s degree and became a librarian and a productive citizen.
    I think you need to visit libraries more and read more books to get more educated about libraries before you suggest to shut them down.

  • Qin Tang

    “you may eventually be lucky enough to find some books. Probably you won’t.” Really? Please tell me what library you are talking about. Have you visited any real libraries? This is hard to believe.

    I think the author’s viewpoint is very narrow-minded. Library IS a community center AND a place with books. Books come in different formats and ways. Just because you don’t see a lot of books on the shelves doesn’t mean library is not a place with books.
    And what’s wrong with teaching English to immigrants? I am glad some libraries do that. Do you know that most Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants? The majority of immigrants I know are highly skilled and educated people. Or they are hardworking people. Educated or not, they all help make this country great. Can you imagine this country without immigrants?

    I came to the US as an immigrant. I learned and improved my English mostly through my local public library by reading books. I loved visiting libraries and what libraries could do for people like me. And that’s how I got my second master’s degree and became a librarian and a productive citizen.

    I think you need to visit real libraries more and read more books to get more educated about libraries before you suggest to shut them down.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      I visit real libraries all the time.

  • Jazzlie

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been working at libraries for quiet some time and the degradation is pretty evident. There are librarians working that are lazy who are taking up job positions or so old that they need to retire. Other-hand the libraries are becoming a social place like a movie-theater or entertainment center. Instead of a place of information and knowledge. Sure there’s lots of books and video-materials available.

    • Jazzlie

      Didn’t even know that librarians were being required to push political propaganda instead of freedom of information. Now that explains why using AccessHealth under a sneaky way by changing the name from ObamaCare and providing it in the librarians as if its a good thing. The guys in orange have practically made themselves a social-home in the libraries now visiting every so month just to lure in unsuspecting patrons to sign up for government-endorsed health-care that is no good. ObamaCare is EBT health-care also known as AccessHealth.