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7/10/2007

Could libraries be born today?

There's an interesting discussion over at Freakonomics today about public libraries which basically asks the question... 'if libraries didn't already exist, could you start one today?"

"But here’s the point I’m (finally) getting to: if there was no such thing today as the public library and someone like Bill Gates proposed to establish them in cities and towns across the U.S. (much like Andrew Carnegie once did), what would happen?

I am guessing there would be a huge pushback from book publishers. Given the current state of debate about intellectual property, can you imagine modern publishers being willing to sell one copy of a book and then have the owner let an unlimited number of strangers borrow it? "

And the discussion comments are even more interesting.

PS: Thanks John for sending this one my way. :)

2 comments:

Cynthia said...

Actually yes, I think they could be born today.

First, libraries long existed before Carnegie and they helped books be noticed, used, and archived. Second, the birth of libraries would be a financial boon to publishers--just as they are now. Libraries create book lovers--that does not hurt the publishing industry.

I think you would have far more resistence from the population than the publishers. The level and intensity of 'challenges' seems to have grown significantly in the last 20 years (no data--my hunch, feels that way but could be wrong). So many things in society today are not allowed for our own safety or are forced on us for our own good (clik claks/seat belts). I think it would be nearly impossibly politically to get a new library up and running with a meaningful collection in this climate.

Cynthia said...

Oops, hit the wrong button there...

I meant to finish that sentence as --in many places. However, I still believe that in many other towns and major cities, you could start a successful library system today if there wasn't one. I can not imagine a city like Seattle or Vancouver resisting the concept to a point that would stop it...