Should free Public Libraries remain free?

I’m not sure if I should have put this here or IMHO. If this is the wrong place, would a Mod please move it?

One of the local council members wants to make our wonderful Public Library into a paying concern. He has discussed fees to get a library card, fees to use the computers, fees for the meeting/study rooms and a charge to request books. Here is a link to the latest letter to the newspaperand it seems like many people agree with him.

My take is that its in my best interest to have a well educated population. Other people seem to think that they never use the library, so why should they pay for one.

How do the smartest people in the world feel about this?

My father was the son of immigrants and in his more reflective moments he used to say that the only reason America overcame all the ethnic rivalries that immigrants brought with them was because of “public” cuilture – in which he included public schools, public art (museums, symphonies, etc.) and public libraries.

ETA: After he retired, the last activity he was involved in was fund-raising for his local library.

Absolutely. I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through college without it!

Andrew Carnegie would be rolling in his grave at the very idea!

YES, they definitely absolutely should. When I was a kid and didn’t have enough money to buy a gazillion books I depended on the library. Every 2 weeks I’d go through 10 or so books, until I got through everything I thought was interesting at the library (ours was a small local one, but they still ordered books for you from other libraries, so I kept on reading). I think I would be much less intelligent if I had not read as much as I did when I was younger.

I can’t imagine a more moronic idea than to charge fees for formerly free libraries. As a kid I learned just as much from books I borrowed from the library as I did in school. There’s no way I could have afforded a fee for those services.

Benjamin Franklin too.

[sarcasm on] :dubious: “Well educated” people vote for rational leaders. We can’t have that here!

And BTW, people should also pay for police-subscriber cards and fire-protection cards. This would eliminate the delay of providing credit card data when you call 911.

Maybe you should ask in a European forum then. Most Dopers live in a country where Gingrich and Paul are seriously touted as Presidential material.

This is a really stupid idea. Not to insult library goers but if a library doesn’t serve the needs of the poor it isn’t worth having at all.

People who can afford fee’s in this day and age really don’t have much need of the library. They can easily get the information they need online or by mail using the computers they have the money to afford with the internet services they can afford.

If the plan is to make the library a profitable enterprise, that already exists we call them book stores and even they are on the decline.

Although to be fair, there’s probably quite a lot Carnegie is rolling in his grave about that I’m quite happy about, particularly in the areas of labor relations.

But on the OP, I wholeheartedly agree that that physical media and community outreach aspect of libraries should absolutely remain free. I wouldn’t mind seeing a fee-based system implemented with ebooks, though. I feel like the endgame for ebooks is going to be some sort of netflix-type unlimited access system, and I worry that if ebook readers (who are typically more affluent) start getting pulled away from the public libraries by a private ebook lending system it could really spell trouble for the libraries. The existing ebook systems libraries have work great, but in big city libraries there’s usually huge waiting lists for even vaguely popular books and smaller libraries don’t have very wide selections. If they could address those problems with a fee (one that could be waived for kids and low income folks), I would very happily give them my money.

Without public libraries, even more burden is placed on schools to provide enrichment media for children. But school budgets are getting slashed left and right. So something has to give if we want to pay lip service to maintaining an educated populace.

Libraries provide an additional service: they keep people off the streets. And not just homeless people, but unemployed people and the elderly. It’s kind of hard to seriously tell someone who is broke and jobless to go get a job if they don’t have computer access.

There are some services that wouldn’t I be averse to paying for, if I absolutely had to. For instance, I enjoyed streaming classical music through the account I had with Miami Public Library, and I thought it well worth paying for out of pocket. But few people would agree; even I wouldn’t pay much more than $10 a year. If just a handful of people agree to pay, is that enough to cover subscription fees on the library’s end? Probably not. So might as well say good-bye to that service. The same with everything else.

I think that would be a horrible idea and completely goes against the whole idea of a public library.

Well, it looks like this isn’t a debate at all, unless you live in an ignorant backwater town like I do.

septimus, I’ve played the fire department card when trying to debate this with “close the library” people. I’ve never personally used the fire department. I still want to fund it in case its needed.

boytyperanma While I don’t consider myself to be affluent by any means, I could probably budget money for the fees. I borrow dead tree books, audio books and ebooks all the time. Your post gave me more ammo for the fight, though. Libraries are good for the environment. I rarely read/listen to the same book twice, so if I had to buy them, they would be used once and then donated/tossed into the landfill.

Many people who use the computers are just playing farmville, but a lot of people use the library computers to get jobs. When they get jobs, they will start paying taxes and buying things to help stimulate the economy. This is a good thing in my mind.

GreasyJack good point about the ebooks. All you need is a library card number and a computer to get them at my library. They are very limited, so I usually get mine online for free.

The library in a different county has recently expanded their collection of ebooks to 50,000 titles. Next time I’m in that county I plan to pay the $75 a year fee for a library card. I don’t live there, I don’t pay taxes there, so I don’t have a problem with paying to use their service.

monstro some of the people who want fees for the library complain about the homeless. I think that is so heartless that I can’t even reply.

While I know that “think about the children” is so overdone, when it comes to public libraries, someone has to do it. I think that if someone doesn’t learn to love to read as a child, they won’t do it as an adult.

My clerk might read a book a year. He says that if its a good book, the movie will come out and he will watch that. He is semi-aware of what’s happening in the world, but he has no idea about the back story and was honestly surprised when I told him that many people in Canada speak French.

I WANT to be surrounded by well educated people, and I think that reading is a very important part of that.

Fortunately the city of Pittsburgh has a fantastic library system, but if anything like this were to be proposed, I’d be seeing red. I’d be at the front of the protest march!

I read the comments posted there, and it seems that really only 3 posters are in favor of charging fees for the library (‘Judy B’, ‘Captain Crunch’, and of course ‘Close the Library’ - they seem to post alot among each other) - and one commenter hints that Judy B is a Tea Party member (‘TeaPots’), for whatever it’s worth. Otherwise, the comments run quite against library fees. The only possible fee I could see is charging for the meeting room, and only a nominal amount, enough to pay for heat/lights/maintainance, if the rooms would otherwise be closed/locked/unused - that seems somewhat reasonable.
Otherwise, Counciler Blair’s pay-to-play plan seems very unpopular, as it should be.

I think that basic library services should be free, at the very least. I’d vastly prefer that all services be free, if at all possible. Now, the library system should be able to put limits on the length of time and number of articles checked out, and especially for the newer and more popular items. But I’m not terribly happy with charging a fee to check stuff out.

I’m OK with requiring a fee for services for people who don’t live in a particular area. In at least one case, I know that one library system requires either a fee or a certain number of volunteer hours for a non-resident card.

SirRay, thank you so much for reading through the whole thing. This has been an ongoing debate for over a year, that letter was in response to the last council meeting. If you want, I can post links to the rest of stories.

As to the meeting rooms, they are part of the building. The AC has to run for those rooms if they are used or not. Private doners paid for them with the expectation that those rooms would be free.

IMHO, if the library starts charging, the volunteers will quit and private doners will walk away.

Yes, there were only 3 replies saying that they agreed with the fees in that link. That was a letter, not the newspaper articles. I’ve noticed that there aren’t nearly as many replies to letters. The council will be meeting again in a few weeks and I’m sure that Blair’s fee for use will come up again. I’ll be sure to update this thread, just so everyone can point and laugh.

Lynn, you know that I love you and usually agree with you. This is one of the times I have to disagree with you.

I can’t think of any of the services should have a fee. I can pay a dollar an hour to use the computers. That homeless guy who is trying to look for help probably can’t. The guy who is looking for work at the library because he can’t afford internet…he probably can’t either. Those kids who show up for story hour? If the mom’s had to pay for that, most of the kids wouldn’t be there.

I do agree with limits on how much stuff can be borrowed. All of the libraries I’ve been to do have limits. I’m only allowed to borrow 20 items at a time.

One of the things my library does is to send gentle email to people reminding them that their stuff is going to be due in a few days, with a link to renew them. I think they should stop doing that. My boss disabled that link and ended up paying $53.00 in overdue fines. (not only that, she couldn’t pay her fine at that branch and had to do the walk of shame without her books…I give her so much grief about that.) Overdue fines are a good thing. IMHO.

And over there Jean-Marie Le Pen and Silvio Berlescuoni are considered serious leaders and the latter actually was.

Incidentally the Brits have advocated privatizing the police which I don’t think even the Libertarians want.

Certainly I’ve heard some call for that. And we have privatized some prisons, with predictably disastrous results.

Can’t comment on something for which there is no evidence. The link in the OP is a letter to the editor from someone opposed to… something. I’d prefer to see a link to the actual proposal before I weigh in as to its goodness or badness.