Are Libraries No Longer Public?

In the public interest.

I am concerned about the corporatisation of libraries. Where council members are now Board members and there is an executive team. Why is this a problem. It moves the public asset into private hands. You can tell when a public services becomes a corporate asset as the General Manager becomes a Chief Executive Officer. They are not publicising the fact that the public is losing control as they expand into areas that follow other countries.

This article looks briefly at the removal of fines from library returns happening in the United States, clearly we are following. Now people will go great, they will argue that they are reaching disadvantaged audiences but in what they won’t say is they are preparing for online digital delivery and this at some point will have a charge as what was free has to generate income.

It is a tragedy as children get hooked online with faceless faces increasingly controlling information. The importance of reading a book cannot be over emphasised. It activates the left and right side of the brain, it helps with spelling, comprehension and broadening a person’s knowledge. Books are better to read than online because the eyes glide more easily over pages and it is better for the eyes.

Transformative change or disruption is indeed happening and in my view it does not bode well for the public. I am deeply concerned for the wellbeing of children and the future created for them. It is not being done from a perspective of the best interests of the public it is being done to profit. Commercial approaches always favour business interests first.

Removing fines does actually mean that books will go missing, perhaps that is what they want. People won’t bring them back on time and this means when you put a hold on a book you increasingly will not get it. You will be frustrated and digital will look more reliable. Things are not as they seem on the surface. Smart Cities (“Cities”) are implementing the digital reality into every part of our lives. Everyone will be trackable and profiled. The changes are subtle so you can’t say anything but they are happening, not unlike the frog being boiled slowly. That is what I see.

More libraries are going fine-free. That’s good for everyone.

The central Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)
The central Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

By Editorial Board ‎June‎ ‎18‎, ‎2018‎ ‎2‎:‎36‎ ‎a.m.‎ ‎AEST

IN AN era when e-books and new forms of entertainment have threatened to drive down library use, public libraries are increasingly looking to modernize and innovate. Some have turned to e-books or digital literacy programs to reach more patrons. Others have opted for a different approach: They have gotten rid of the pesky late fees that drive borrowers away.

Last week, the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore announced it was eliminating fines on overdue books and materials. Though borrowers are still responsible for replacement costs for lost items, the Pratt erased $186,000 in outstanding penalties for 26,000 borrowers and reinstated 13,000 users whose cards were previously blocked due to unpaid fines. In doing so, it joined a growing number of libraries across the country that have decided to go fine-free.

Eliminating these fines serves a laudable purpose: The policy can expand access to library services among groups that might otherwise struggle to return materials on time or keep up with payments, including low-income families, people with disabilities and the elderly. In some cases, as patrons return, fine-free policies can actually work to improve library circulation — and even the library’s bottom line. The Pratt, for example, relies on library fines for less than a quarter of a percent of its annual budget, a figure it believes it could largely save in reduced staff time collecting and processing fines. AD

Proponents of library fines argue that they incentivize borrowers to return books on time and teach personal responsibility. But there is little evidence that fines have any effect on the timely return of library materials. In fact, much of the existing research suggests that they do not affect overdue rates and instead deter readers from borrowing materials in the first place. Libraries have also found that fines heavily affect low-income families and children, excluding the very patrons who rely on libraries the most.

Not every library can afford to follow in the Pratt’s footsteps and jettison fines altogether. Many library systems depend heavily on income from fines to cover their regular expenses. Others might find it more viable to eliminate a subset of fines, such as fines on children’s books. Regardless, the experiences of libraries that have successfully implemented fine-free programs offer food for thought for other networks. Perhaps the days of relentless overdue notices and droves of blocked users are coming to an end.

Read more:

Steve Barker: A library where everybody knows your name

Richard Reyes-Gavilan: How a public library set me free

The Post’s View: Readers win when libraries add e-books, but preserve print, as well

Stephan Barker: Libraries help close the digital divide