Public libraries are many things- not a business 

Public libraries are reflections of ourselves. A library’s health reflects our community health. The survey report from Seattle is an example of a library administration, with zealous marketing influence, are trying to grow by ‘sales’ not service. (Holiday) The Seattle Review of Books writes an assessment of the library survey issue. My response is broader Han just the survey questions. Public libraries are not a business. We don’t live by consumerism alone. 

. Public libraries are many things but rebranding is a waste of time and money.  A quality public library should be a diverse welcoming resource for everyone. Fancy mission statements and logos don’t make it so.   Promote? Sure. Very much like public schools, market-based thinking and systems will not be effective for the public library’s vitality. They are institutions of public service. We have forgotten the value and philosophy of service rather than sales. We have become so stained by decades of consumerism and materialism we have let our humanity be hijacked. ‘Free market’ strategies have falsely ridiculed the public service and its workers in order to overwhelm us with consumption.  

The stain is not just American. Recently lobbyists for a new arena in Calgary pitched that a fancy new ice ink was equivalent to a library and deserves 700 million dollars from the public purse.  If private investors desire large profits and promote enterprise, then all investment should be private. Public funding with only private profit sharing is inappropriate. Corporate welfare is not public service. Even if they like hockey, only the wealthiest of us can afford NHL hockey tickets.  It’s a grant to billionaire professional hockey team owners.  Even the prestige, financial benefits, etc for a city is one big myth.  A library doesn’t generate profit by charging astronomical prices. Profit is not the goal.  Apples and oranges. Like in the stables at the Calgary Stampede, I call bull shit! ( Haavardsrud  ) A hockey owner can’t sing community spirit in one breath, then threaten to pull stakes and leave town! 

 Let the profiteers enjoy the fruit of their own risk.  Extremist capitalism forces are not our friend.  All things private and the marketplace have inaccurately become the solution for everything that ails us. More people now realize it’s the manic marketplace that makes us sick. A shift back to stronger support of public institutions like schools, parks, services and libraries can heal us. 

  (VPL )
A public library can be a keystone of the community. The Vancouver Public Library is a good example. It’s grand. It’s diverse. It’s simply the VPL.  What is special is the fact that it’s for the public and everyone shares in the cost.  Libraries are valuable because people can access services for free. The knowledge gathering experience should not be synonymous with a person’s bank balance. Many people cannot afford computers, magazines and books. We all support and share the facility and services whether print or digital, open access is essential. People can research and get assistance. People simply enjoy the experience not just the things.  They are social public squares. It’s simple really. 

Public libraries are like parks. People need green space.  People love to read. A library is not a bookstore or Starbucks. A library is not a business.  A community library can be a public service jewel. – Al Smith 

 Haavardsrud, Paul. “The Big Sell.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 21 Aug. 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <;. 

 Holliday, Laurel. “Public Response to SPL Survey Sharply against City Librarian Marcellus Turner’s Rebranding Plan, by Laurel Holliday.” The Seattle Review of Books. N.p., 21 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <;. 

 A Walk to the Library. Digital image. Bills Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <;.

About LiterateOWL

photographer, flyfisher , bird watcher, dog lover, amateur artist and retired teacher-librarian...
This entry was posted in Blogosphere, Essay, Libraries and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.