Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Do Libraries Still Matter?

It all depends on who you are if libraries still matter to you.

And, I’m going to go out on a moral limb here and declare that, if you’re a sane and upright person, libraries Matter.

So, it seems there are quite a few insane, downright confused people in our world

If you click on Libraries in our Top Tags widget in the side-bar you’ll find 20 posts.

One of the most insane attitudes I’ve encountered as a writer is the opinion that, since libraries buy only a few copies of a book yet lend it out free to many users, they’re being unfair to authors, because the people who read the book free are not giving the author their royalty.

Here’s just one example of how libraries are boosting book sales.

Of course, that example is from the United States.

I hope my friend from Australia will weigh-in in the Comments about the situation there

Another thing that gets lost in the greed-infested world of publishing is the salutary effect of libraries for those in our human family who can’t afford to buy books.


If you love libraries but haven’t been keeping up with the news, do check out these links:

Libraries, Copyright and Fair Use

The ALA [American Library Association] Ebook Standoff

ALA President Challenges ‘Discriminatory’ eBook Policies

Association of American Publisher ‘Disappointed’ by ALA Letter

New Smashwords Program for Libraries Offers Thousands of Indie Ebook Crowd-pleasers

And, if you happen to be one of those folks who feel we could well do without libraries, since there are so many other ways to get books now, please consider that there are a few billion people on our planet who have no access to the books you enjoy
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12 responses to “Do Libraries Still Matter?

  1. Once October 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Like the monarchy here in Canada and throughout the British Commonwealth, the library is an institution that continues to serve the interests unity in diversity, above politics, beyond the failings of parochial thinking, without the dense and darker effects of fads and ephemeral or fickle restraints of reality or fantasy (or both), in short, a “benign shibboleth” in societies an civilizations, forever a length between the past and present, the old and young, and teachers and students of the collective good. There are, to be sure, perennial arguments on the efficacy of the upkeep of such institutions, especially in the leaner years, but, like “motherhood” or “marriage” and the like, it takes a fool to argue for the removal off the stuff of strength and the glue of courage, or even more, the inverse of virtue for the sake of expediency.


    • Alexander M Zoltai October 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      As always, John, your comments are Amazing
      Folks, do go visit John’s poetry site ;-)


    • Once October 26, 2012 at 1:45 am

      Equally “amazing” to me are the errors and typos I make whenever I attempt to write something on my iPad; as usual, I suspect you have overlooked all of these blemishes and got the gist of what I intended. Our library here in Westmount is always full of people, by the way, each and every time I go. Many, many people apparently thrive being there. A town without a library must be as bereft as a town without a hospital or a school. For whatever the reasons, the very existence of a library means that the citizens of that town care to the spiritual and not merely the material progress of their children and a formidable “touching base” with the very idea of the developing of civilisation from wherever it was to wherever it is going. Frankly, to suggest that libraries are superfluous to the continued progress of a people is absurd when one consider the mere and simple enjoyment of being in a library and knowing that it is there if ever one wishes to check in with sanity. The last time I looked, it was a fact that more people visit museums and libraries in the United States that the combined attendance of all sporting events; I think this says something definite about the worth of a library. As to what one does about detracting from book sales, it is irrelevant with such statistics. I was happy that you made mention of this question of the possibly mistaken ideas that the general population may seem to have at times. Bravo!


  2. Martina Sevecke-Pohlen October 26, 2012 at 6:26 am

    In Germany, public libraries usually belong to a town and are financed by the local authorities. Although there is a common understanding that libraries are impotant for the community and are newly (!) recognized as places of education, a lot of libraries have been closed or are threatened to be closed in the near future. OECD studies have shown that teenagers in big cities that are politically a province, Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen, only reach the lowest level in reading, maths and science. There are areas in those cities with high unemployment and low levels of education … and often no libraries. On the other hand provinces in Eastern Germany that have suffered great losses of population after the reunion of the two Germanies in 1990 have to close libraries because there are not enough people left.


    • Alexander M Zoltai October 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Dear Martina,

      Are you aware of any efforts to remedy the closing of libraries in your country??


      • Martina Sevecke-Pohlen October 27, 2012 at 8:08 am

        The most common measure is charging readers. Some towns offer reading tickets free of charge for people with a low income. Sometimes people organize free libraries, but they can never collect as many books as official libraries. There are some church libraries, mostly free of charge and usually well stocked. But you have to keep in mind that the role of churches and religion here is very different from the USA, and fourty years of socialism have effectively weakened religious feeling in Eastern Germany.
        I have just read Jane’s comment. We have a similar system in Germany. Authors and publishing houses are compensated for the lending of their books. Users like libraries, radio or TV stations, copy shops or schools have to pay money for using books. The money is collected, then allocated to those who have books in lending libraries, those whose work is used by the media and so on.


  3. Jane Watson October 26, 2012 at 9:00 am

    “Our data show that over 50% of all library users report purchasing books by an author they were introduced to in the library,” This may be a surprise to publishers but it should be no surprise at all to people who read… we all know that if we find an author we like we tend to follow them and read all their work…In Australia if an author’s works are in a library the author is compensated through Public Lending Right. I still get cheques every year for a book I published a while ago because there are copies in Australian libraries….our Australian Society of Authors made that happen here – (see my comment on yesterday’s blog) :) Our local library has just had AUD $20million spent on it in refurbishments…!


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