Would you support private libraries?

This is a poll.

If government did not subsidize libraries (and therefore returned to you the money they otherwise would take for the purpose), would you support private libraries either through donations or through paying small fees to check out materials?

I would probably donate with books (because I sure have a lot of them), but I currently I donate too much money toward other causes for the libraries to make the list.

Plus the local library isn’t all that great anyway, even though last year it was ranked as one of the best in the country. The supply of books is very low in contrast to demand. One has to wait on a list for several months to get a new release. Plus, the title selection is heavily biased toward fiction, and that doesn’t help me because I prefer non-fiction. Typically, I just go to the bookstore and read for a few hours instead.

One good thing the library supplies that I rarely see people using are its reference materials. It seems like the Internet supersedes a lot of these items though.

I would support a private library if public libraries didn’t exist.

How much I would be willing to pay, and whether that would be less or more than my contribution now through taxes, I cannot really say.


Of course. Libraries, however, seem to be one of the things the public sector does right. Fees might also keep books out of the hands of the poor, which is just plain wrong, it seems to me.

I’d tend to think that in a modern first world society there seems to be no reason not to include in that society’s ‘social birth rights’ – together with comprehensive health care and education on demand, meaningful and constructive support for the poor, etc – the right to free access to the one material with which anyone can educate themselves.

Restricting the greatest aid in the fight against ignorance and the most significant asset in an individual’s desire for betterment to only those who can afford it, seems not to be a good idea. And a false economy for that society: More education > greater personal income > more tax paid + greater involvement and integration in society and fewer pieces for society to pick up later on.

A Public Library and Private Library system working together (the latter not being spcialist) is, IMHO, a very slippery slope.

On the principle: No.

Probably not. Call me lame, but I have other things that I would spend my time and/or money on.

That said, I might be more apt to donate books to the library if it was a private institution. Right now, I keep books or sometimes give them to friends when I’m done with them.

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Lib could you distinguish between “be a customer of” and “patronize” (in the old sense).

It is no big thing to say one would borrow from a private library: the issue is whether given current technology, thy could bee efficient and/or profitable.

Whether I would fund a library for (or to influence) others is another matter.

Or do you want to know both/


Gee, do I get a voucher which I can donate to the library of my choice?

In all seriousness, I would donate books. I would pay a fee to check out a book. I would even pay others’ fees in certain cases. I agree with Biotop about the fees, but the effect on the poor would probably be mitigated as long as “non-lending” use of the libraries facilities remained free (research carrells, internet work stations, etc.).

It’s a pretty wide open pole, Pic, so say whatever you feel. It is entirely possible that the whole notion of libraries is obsolete, and that people like London_Calling might want to make computers, rather than libraries, a birth right of society.

The purpose of the poll is to determine whether people who say such-and-such (in this case libraries) is essential to a modern society really believe that. If you really believe charity is necessary, then you will be charitable. If you really believe libraries are necessary, then you will help fund them (including funds to subsidize checkouts for people too poor to afford the twenty-fice cents, or whatever). And if the vast majority of people really feel they are necessary (and therefore are willing to put their money where their mouth is), then the very expensive and bloated bureaucratic layer to implement them by force is quite unnecessary.

Why would I pay a fee to check out a book, when I can buy the book for a larger fee and keep it?


While it might indeed by a wide-open pole, I meant to say that it is a wide-open poll.


I’m with Satan on this one. I might donate books but not money. Of all the issues and institutions I’d like to see funded (medical research, environmental organizations, scholarship funds, local schools, etc.) libraries are low on the totem pole.

Of course, some institutions I’d support in education may maintain a library so I may, in effect, support a library in a roundabout fashion and that’s fine with me.

What would be even cooler is if we reduce copywrite durations on books to be only, say 5 or 10 years. I mean, what percentage of books make money after the first few years anyway?

Then the books can be distributed freely on the Internet.

And the Internet can be distributed how to those without Internet access? I’ll keep my paper books, thank you very much. :slight_smile:

As for the poll–I agree with Jeff and Satan. Libraries are an integral part of society, but I’d bet that the people for whom access to libraries is most important are the ones that can least afford to support the cause.

(quick sidebar: I want to donate all my tax dollars to education, to libraries, and to helping the poor. In a libertarian society, what kind of military protection would I get?)

As for donated books, however, how many copies of The Runaway Jury does any given library need? :rolleyes: I’d do what I could to support the library in my area–which, unfortunately, wouldn’t be very much. I’m not a rich guy. But I can guarantee you that my local library wouldn’t be a fifth as stocked (and it’s not particularly stocked now) if its funding was left up to the auspices of the community. Because most of the people who use the library can’t afford much, and most of the people who can afford to donate never use the library.

That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

Yes, if the only libraries around charged a fee to check out books, I’d feel that I had no choice but to pay the fee and possibly donate additional money or volunteer time. Partly because I’m a grad student and I need access to as many books as possible, and partly because I’d feel obligated. I don’t like the idea of a society without libraries, and if I knew that the only thing keeping the library afloat was donations from private citizens, I would feel I had a responsibility to give as much as I could afford. (This wouldn’t amount to very much, as I don’t have much money to spare, but it would probably be more than I currently pay in library taxes.)

As for donated books – they’re welcome to the ones I don’t plan to use again, but I’m not sure they’d want a stack of trashy paperback mysteries, two copies of the New Testament (courtesy of the Gideon Society), and a 1997 test prep guide for the GRE. I’m hanging on to pretty much everything else.

I already donate money.
The library in my town is primarily funded through property taxes.
I do not own my home, and do not pay property taxes.

I do, however, give several small yearly donations to the Friends of the Library for certain programs, and I also
give annually to the library system at my alma mater.

In addition to that are the LARGE number of overdue fines I pay every year. Oops!

Yes, definitely. I already donate money, books and volunteer time to libraries. In addition, if the public libraries were privatized I would pay a fee for use of them.

As to the question of whether most people consider libraries enough of a public good to voluntarily support them I would say that the answer is incontrovertibly yes, at least where I live. In NY State public, tax supported, library districts are not mandatory. In fact there are a few tightwad, cheapass outposts of barbarianism (or oases of noncoercion in a vast desert of majoritarian coercion if that’s your perspective) which do not have a public library. Inhabitants of those areas can purchase a nonresident card in a neighboring district for several hundred dollars/year.

I don’t know of any area currently served by a public library which is seriously considering abolishing its district; several of the areas currently without a district are holding referenda to establish a district- all of which are expected to pass. So in this neck of the woods at least people seem to be putting their money where their mouths are concerning the value of public libraries.


Yes you do. The property taxes on your dwelling are backed into your rent by your landlord. Everybody pays property taxes.


Pardon my bluntness, but if you lived in a Libertarian society, were not taxed, and spent all of your money after personal living expenses on education, libraries, and helping the poor, without bothering to provide for your own defense, you deserve exactly the level of defense you get. What kind of stupid person would do such a thing? That’s like asking what kind of paycheck you get for not bothering to come to work.

Let me say first off that I love libraries. I am the president of our local library’s board. I also work in the library field (sort of). Will people pay for libraries if the gov’t didn’t? Not a frickin’ chance! It’s hard enough to get the cities to pay for them.

I don’t believe for a second any of you that say you would pay for library service. The only individuals that donate to support libraries are those who have so much money that they’re looking for ways to spend it (Bill and Melinda Gates, Andrew Carnegie). Libertarians are either deluding themselves or lying when they claim people will pay for “public services”.

By the way, 90% of books that are donated to libraries are given or thrown away by them. Your books may mean a lot to you, but it costs money to keep books in a collection, and chances are they already have them or they don’t want your hand me downs.

pldennison: that’s completely not true. The society as a whole gets the defence they paid for. An individual’s contribution to the national defence is essentially 0–not even enough for one grunt. If nobody is donating money, and Gadarene does, his defence doesn’t change. If everybody is, and he doesn’t, same thing. It’s only the society as a whole that will get what they paid for (unless one is wealthy enough to provide for a private army).