Last weekend, Forbes took down a recent, controversial article due to considerable backlash. According to Forbes, the report was outside the writer’s area of expertise, so the article is no longer up. The article argued that libraries are now obsolete, a waste of taxpayer money and need replacement by Amazon stores.
The article itself and the backlash to its presence show anxiety for libraries and whether or not they should be up for debate.
If readers take it at face value that public libraries exist and are both excellent and essential, it goes to follow that these services it provides are fundamental rights and is the responsibility of the government to safeguard. If the suggestion is libraries shouldn’t exist due to their “waste,” we then call into question the rights they protect.
The now deleted article argued the traditional roles of libraries like book lending, and community gathering places perform better through bookstore-cafes like Starbucks. Since the brick-and-mortar Amazon bookstores have easy access to the Amazon database of books worldwide, the article deduces these locations are superior to libraries.
While a favorite argument to this thought is that Amazon requires you to purchase things while a library allows you to borrow for free, the author wanted to clarify. Libraries aren’t free. Homeowners pay a local library tax. He then cited his bill being $495 each year.
Even though libraries receive partial funding from property tax dollars, so do many other public services such as schools, parks, roadwork, and fire departments. Even for those without children attending school, their taxes go towards the public school system since it’s agreed upon by the community that education for children is good for the country as a whole.
Libraries Serve the Public While Amazon Serves Only Itself
Libraries have the design to serve the public. They offer movies and music alongside books to entertain and inform the public. Internet access and low-cost printing are also available at libraries everywhere. Libraries even provide financial literacy training and assistance for job searches. Non-English-speaking immigrants can find help there as can those who find themselves incarcerated, homeless or housebound.
This is because we as a society determined our tax dollars should help offer resources for public education and entertainment. Specifically, that which can reach the most vulnerable populations as part of its mission. In doing so, we help with the betterment of the public and our society.
An enormous corporation built for the sole purpose of maximizing profits owns Amazon and in turn, its bookstore-cafes. Algorithms select the books to stock. Most of the stock is recent best-sellers and those the company had success at selling online. Public education is not Amazon’s priority nor is it designed to serve the vulnerable populations. Amazon is first and foremost a business whose only goal is to make money with little thoughts for the public.