Saturday, June 25, 2011



This is absolutely and unequivocally FALSE. Libraries are not free. Library services are not free. Library materials are not free. (Unless, of course you pay no taxes at all, ever, anywhere.) As I’ve stated before, the cheapest a library gets is $13 +/- per capita. Would we call other things free that cost $13 per person? Are baseball games free if you get an outfield bleacher seat? Is a movie ticket free? NO. Is the library a good deal? Yes, to those that use it, the library is a great deal. In fact, the more you use it, the better a deal it becomes. However, it is NOT free.

and it's not even inconvenient!Everyone in library land should do themselves a favor and stop spreading this lie. Instead, we should tell the truth. The library is not free; it’s something you’ve already paid for. An apt analogy (in my mind) is that the library is like a Groupon deal that get’s you $100 of food for about $13. Once you’ve paid for that, your food isn’t free, it’s just really cheap. (The big flaw in this analogy, if course, is that you would CHOOSE to buy the groupon, you have no real choice about the library- but that’s a different story altogether.)

If you think it’s free, you simply think you’re passing up a free service- like not taking that sample pizza bagel at SAMS. However, if you don’t use the library, you’re paying for something you’re not using- like buying the box of pizza bagels and leaving them on the bottom of the cart instead of taking them home. From a library marketing standpoint, I don’t see WHY you would ever tell someone it’s free. Are you more likely to use something that’s free, or something that you’ve already paid for so you might as well get your money’s worth? I definitely don’t know why Linda McMaken at Investopedia would make this ignorant mistake.


Anonymous said...

Is that $13 a year? Then there's no comparison to a baseball game or a movie (2-4 hrs of entertainment). What else costs only $13 a year?

Spencer Smith said...

yeah, it's $13/year. I know it's cheap- but it's not free. Also, that can get higher- san fran is $68/year. That equals more than a netflix subscription.

Tom said...

The quote said "at no charge." Not "free." Meaning you will not pay anything at the time you receive the service.

Not that what you say isn't true, it's just that it's in response to something not said.

By the way, a lot of people pay for things they don't use. That's the way it works. Do you think I want to pay for wars I don't believe in, or crappy schools when i don't have children and never will?

spencer said...

tom, no charge means free, not "you've already been charged." that would be "no additional charge." agree with the wars and schools comments, but 2 wrongs (or 3, or 4, etc.) don't make a right.

nice points though!