Should libraries charge?

February 4, 2009
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Should libraries be charging for the hottest materials?

The Dallas Public Library thinks so. It's slapped a $5 surcharge on a short list of bestsellers and new-release DVDs. You can find more details here.

A slippery slope or a smart move?

And, FYI, the same story reports that the American Library Association has noted a ten percent uptick from 2001-2008 in both the number of visits to libraries and the number of items checked out.

Your thoughts?
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  • Are people taking books out of the library instead of purchasing them? I haven't seen any reports that book sellers/publishers are facing declines, but it makes sense that people would go the cheap route. Libraries exist on government financing, so I am opposed to them creating express lines for those willing to pay. That only restricts availability to every other tax payer.
  • Those willing to wait to check out a new release at the library often wait through 100-200 other patrons. That's just the price for avoiding book store/rental fees. I can't imagine that library copies of popular books or videos are huring the book sellers. Plus, we already pay for the library services through our tax dollars.
  • I understand the libraries need for increased revenue, just like everyone else, but this is not the way to do it. I am an avid supporter and user of IMCPL and would not stop using it but would be very disappointed if they move in this direction.
    Remember when the Children's Museum used to be FREE? I held a family membership to the museum for years thinking that helped it remain free and accessible to everyone. When they started charging admission I canceled my membership.
    Being a tax supported institution, the library absolutely should not charge for services.
  • Slippery slope. The free public library system in the United States is the underpinning of our system of government. Anyone can use a public library. Charging a fee to get special treatment shows what I have sometimes suspected, however: that public libraries often spend their budgets on the middle and upper class in their communities.
  • The publishing industry is indeed experiencing sales contraction, just like anyone else. However, I believe the contraction is on the consumer side rather than on the library/trade side. I don't know enough about the publishing business to say for sure, though. I've read that they are cutting back on the number of speculative books they buy and are being very careful about sponsoring splashy book release parties.

    From my personal perspective, I know that I do not buy nearly as many books as I used to a year or two ago, and read almost everything through the public library. I have also stopped renting DVDs from Blockbuster, preferring to get them from the library. I need to do this to make my own budget balance.

    Adding a surcharge for the most popular books is not conceptually consistent with the idea of libraries as a free and fair public service to ensure that everyone in this country has a certain base level access to education resources. Dare I say that it is anti-American to institute a surcharge on services that are already covered by our tax dollars? (although it certainly seems to be par for America to extend preferential services to those who can pay for them) If IMCPL follows the Dallas model it will affect my library usage but I can't say how much--I'll probably just wait until the books I want to read are off the surcharge list.

    Besides, I think I singlehandedly support my local branch through my overdue library fines...
  • Wow this sure is an interesting subject. I've never heard of the libraries charging for renting out movies and books. How'd you find out about this? I always find the topics that you choose so interesting! I absolutely love your writing and the Indianapolis entertainment has always needed a guy like you. We can always rely on your critique.

    - Ter
  • Discusting...................will there be anything left that is not available unless you have the resources???? We have an education crisis and now we want people to pay for one of the things we need to encourage people to do.....READ??? There may be other business options for a library struggling but to visit this on the public who are already deep in their pockets to support it (whether they use it or not) seems ill-advised. It's a trend that should not find legs.
  • We already pay for library resources. Taxes.

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