Should libraries sell books ?

11 Oct

The Guardian is my regular stop for British news, especially since they provide a direct access to library news and blog posts. I stumbled yesterday on this article citing the suggestion of Culture minister Margaret Hodges that libraries should sell books in regard of the recent numbers stating that less than 40 % of the population was using libraries. Booksellers reacted appropriately, outraged that their market share (with the likes of Amazon around) could be shrinking even more. But what outraged me is the mere notion that libraries would enter the market economy by selling services in return for monetary compensation,

Libraries are free, provide public access to books, magazines, dictionaries, CD’s and DVD’s, comic books, video games. It is a space to study, learn, share, compare tastes, meet new people, challenge new ideas and this has been provided free of charge for decades. Even now public and academic libraries are raking their brains to provide new services, enrich their content and attract new patrons in their facilities, all that free of charge (or a mere amount for specialized research libraries).

News Corp. magnate Ruper Murdoch recently declared that he would like for search engines pay to have access to news and professional content, how long until internet users will have to pay search engines to read the New York Times? Even worse, will there be a time when the public will be asked to pay 1.25$ in the library to read the newspaper? My tone may seem alarmist, at best, but isn’t it here that, as librarians, we make our stand to remind that our services are for everyone, free of charge?

While remaining a public service, while keeping our dedication to our users, while pushing ourselves to remain at the cutting edge of technology, I don’t believe that we could be any different from any other public service by restricting our resources to people who have money.

For my future, and or actual, readers, what do you think?


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