The Cost Of Free Libraries

D. J. Hoek isn’t a fan of an image (seen below) that has been bouncing around social media recently:

[L]ibraries, as we know, do not exist for free. They cost their communities—whether composed of taxpayers, tuition-payers, donors, or a combination—a substantial amount of money. It’s well-intentioned to emphasize that libraries
provide materials and services without exacting immediate payment from users for each transaction. But today it is at best a mistake and at worst self-destructive to underrepresent the considerable ongoing investment that the members of a community make to have library collections, technology, personnel, and facilities available to them. … Rather than promote the “free library,” let’s remind our communities of their great investment and of the tremendous wealth of returns they derive from that investment: materials, specialized assistance, and programming. That doesn’t mean libraries are free. It means that the cost of libraries is worth every cent.

Claire Kelley considers one possible solution to library budget cuts:

As libraries respond to the challenges facing them, some have suggested adding a small circulation fee—something like fifty cents—to make up for cut funding. Last year in The Atlantic, Keith Michael Fiels, executive director of the American Library Association, responded to an Atlantic editorial that argued for instituting such a policy. He worried that collecting fees would be a barrier for entry for the people who needed library access most, and that the amount of revenue generated would be less than what public support and municipal budgets could provide.