Who runs libraries? People with Masters in Library Science. I expect severe budget and certification crises would come to any library that won't put a certified librarian in a head position.
Or, I'm a working class guy and it's Sunday, my traditional off from work, can I go to the library? No, it is closed because there needs to be Master Librarian on duty and they've negotiated a contract to never have to work Sunday. Now the facility sits there unused 14% of the time, during the most likely time it would be used.
And you would be wrong. My local library is considered one of the best small-town libraries in the nation (I believe at one point it literally won an award for being the best) -- and does not have a certified librarian in a head position.
Also, to compare MLS librarians with MBAs in regards to the workings of what's under them is exceptionally unfair. Most librarians I know (a set which includes my father in law, who is a county library director, and two close friends, who hold MLS degrees) are extremely academically curious about new things they can do to make their libraries more accessible and attractive.
A lack of complete uniformity across the industry does not mean he's wrong.
My point is not to disrespect MLS, in fact as even as a programmer, I'd probably be terrible as a head sys-admin/tech-support for a library too.
I'm wondering why we've never heard of anyone making a good career move by setting up tech at a library (other than as a fat and easy contract)? If we can all relate to these deficient computer networks being run in public libraries, why has nobody succeeded in this space? I'm suggesting perverse incentives in management structure is why this much needed service isn't being filled by our extremely talented tech workforce.
> it literally won an award for being the best and does not have a certified librarian in a head position.
kind of my point, no?
Because they are underfunded, Bezos seems to be addressing that.
>>kind of my point, no?
No, the provided example seems to be counter to your point.
If those with the means paid a fair price for the library resources they are sharing, a library could be open for many more, have better resources AND cost the taxpayer less.
Libraries weren't always free. Like the one Ben Franklin helped establish. These didn't cost the taxpayer anything. And if you wanted to help someone without the means, you would just pay for their membership.
Making something free for some, but not others could stir up resentment ("why should I pay for your use of the library?"), which would make it easier to cut funding in the future. This could lead to a spiral of increasing fees (or decreased service) -> smaller constituency -> less funding.
I'm also not sure that the marginal user costs a library very much. I doubt that a library with twice as many potential patrons needs twice as many books or two times the staff, for example.
A month's worth of food costs a lot more than using a book for a month.
In the US, Republicans have been talking about "welfare queens" and people buying lobsters with food stamps for literally decades. This strategy has apparently worked for them, even though benefit fraud is supposedly quite rare.
On the flip side, it's virtually impossible to cut Social Security and Medicare in the US, in part because the programs are not means-tested and everyone hopes to get something back from them.
Even my university library has sunday hours.
The hours for all branches are on the following page; to find the ones open on Sunday, just search on the page for:
Also, the Beverly Hills Public Library -- which is, of course, not part of the LA library system -- is open 12 - 6 on the weekends:
Also, the main branches of suburban libraries in places like Glendale and Pasadena are open all weekend too.
The small, small, small town north of here though is closed on Sunday.
However, it is a great library. No arguments there. It's a pain that its closed on Sundays just when kids want to use it most.
Libraries provide so much public good: giving the public internet access, allowing people to read classics and better themselves for free, and giving some quiet space for those wanting to study (and not have to pay for a $5 coffee).
But I think you're making a good point that others are missing: The most valuable things in society are often things that aren't easily measured by straightforward means.
Somebody was willing to step up and rehab a local library. Had they not done so, it would have been forced to close. It is staffed entirely by volunteers. The town can barely afford to budget the heat.
Fortunately, the same person now donates regularly and there's no risk of immediate closure. They will have also left a small trust for the library when they pass away.
They lack books, though. The shelves are low, widely spaced, and don't occupy much of the floor space.
I've long since given up even looking for books there. I just go buy them.
Contrast this with Half Price Books:
It's crammed with books. (The picture barely does that justice.)
On the contrary, even the poor have their own computers and smartphones these days and these libraries don't see much sense in upgrading their rarely used computers.
Using an old android device to browse the internet is browsing as a second-class citizen. When I job hunt, I open many documents, hundreds of tabs, visit hundreds of websites... all of this would be greatly hindered by a mobile device.
Have you been to a low income library where people are not using the computers? My previous neighborhood's library computers were being used almost all the time when I went there.
> even the poor have their own computers and smartphones these days
I'm curious what you've read that informs this opinion. The digital divide still exists, especially in rural areas but in general across socioeconomic class.
These are actually amazing investments because they're getting incredible duty-cycles out of all of those objects when they're being shared. One purchased instrument or computer for the library is access when it's needed for dozens if not hundreds of people. It's like the argument for self-driving cars being shared because normally cars are idle 95% of the time.
Think of the library as the efficient distribution center of Common Good.
One can agree with all the positives mentioned in the article and your points as well but still question if there is an _even better_ investment than libraries that will result in the most good.
Even Jeff Bezos' wealth is finite so spending it is a zero-sum game. Donating to public libraries means money not donated to researchers needing $1m to find cures/antibiotics that would benefit all of humanity more than upgrading libraries. (Or whatever other recipient you can imagine that could have a greater multiplier effect of that money than libraries.)
Maybe libraries are the best use of his donation money. Maybe not.
The meter-stick to compare all charities (or hell, government programs? Personal spending?) is that we can donate $3000 to the Against Malaria Foundation and save a child's life.
I might be a numbers-first globalist nerd, but $3000 per life? It makes me want to defund most welfare programs in the states because by comparison, they are horribly inefficient. And inefficiency of resources, in this scenario, results in dead children.
(The web design is a disaster, but the content is fine once you dig it up)
If libraries are underfunded, that is a problem you need to push through public channels. In the same vein as why a private company doing infrastructure makes no sense, if we can demonstrably show the benefits of having libraries (and we can) that breaks down the most fundamental barrier to public funding of anything - justifying the expense with demonstrable results.
The government has a hard time investing in space flight because without a demonstrable major goal like beating the Commies it looks to the uninformed like money down a black hole. It is really hard to justify, no matter the degree of information availability, bleeding edge research on the public purse because you have to explicitly detail it isn't a guarantee on results for any given years investment. In politics where the mood changes based on yesterdays news, few can weather a bad year if they are putting large amounts of money into important research.
Libraries, though? We got statistics for that. We are well versed in building and staffing libraries. They are functionally infrastructure - and that is supposed to be what government is good at. If you live in a country where it is not good at infrastructure, you got bigger problems to deal with then.
Basically, something what Tesla did, apply Silicon Valley tech startup mentality in a non-tech industry.
The other issue (at least in the USA) is a ton of compliance stuff you have to deal with. HIPAA compliance is such a pain in the ass. It's not "cool" or fun, so it doesn't usually attract great devs or people that don't want to deal with constant red tape and permissions for accessing things. Naturally, this business sort of attracts the bureaucratic minded people and the really efficient people end up frustrated/burn out and move into an industry where getting shit done is easily quantifiable in the short term.
Regardless, I work in the healthcare industry currently and it's a shitshow for lack of a better word.
Preventing those 2 diseases alone would save the country billions, if not trillions, a year in medical costs.
Judging the quality of the medical service is also often difficult. The true quality and the utility of the service you receive will often be apparent only years or decades later. Did a patient need for antibiotics for a basic viral infection? Probably not but it feels like a better service.
We are as far from a market where you can experiment with healthcare as you can be aside from outright banning private medical practice.
How about they pay their damn taxes.
I don't want "charity". No, I want these deadbeats to start pulling their own weight. Then we'll buy our own damned libraries.
"For economies to thrive, companies need to hand over a quarter of their profits.
But the Four Horsemen – Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook — pay far less than the average US corporate tax rate.
Loser: future generations, who will have to pay off the debt racked up by politicians unwilling to tax the most profitable companies in the world."
Though an interesting idea would be to combine the roles of a library with a traditional pub house.
That's either the best idea ever, or the worst idea ever. I'm not sure that it'd be very quiet, either.
This should be a thing. It might be a horrible thing, but it should exist.
Health care for all? Affordable housing? Food security?
Unsurprisingly, you can't just stick "size of government" on an axis and say one side is good and the other is bad. The way you spend the money matters way more than how much you spend. One dollar of state spending can mean anything from magnitudes of benefit to a negative impact on the economy or society from the consequences of that dollar.
It's still a good idea.
First, there's regulatory capture. In short, the regulated industry ends up writing its own regulations. As a result, the regulations just enshrine business practices as they are. The total size of the regulatory regime can even increase because of the second aspect of regulatory capture. When an industry captures the agency, it can seek to make the rules purposely byzantine and vague, in order to ensure that almost any business practice can be defended, provided one has enough legal muscle.
Regulatory capture is what people who root for Uber's business model demonize. The car-for-hire industry, they say, is regulated in such a way as to keep the taxi industry profitable even if the service is, they claim, subpar.
Second, there's policy that goes under the names "regulatory reform" or "regulatory relief" Here, the regulations themselves are not subject to change or reduction, only the effort by the government to do meaningful enforcement is cut. This is what we see around the US role and reaction to the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. Laws that could have been used to prevent this event, or to prosecute the executives responsible, do exist. Violations are simply not prosecuted.
For others who are asking about measurable ways government regulation has decreased, don't look as the size of the CFR, look at the relationship of the regulations with existing business practices and the current low-enforcement regulatory regime.
Finally, one might ask, if the regulations are so business-friendly and enforcement so lax, why hasn't the size of the regulatory workforce shrunk? Well, of course it has, but also, a big regulatory regime is a barrier to entry for competitors. The most profitable companies don't want competition, so they are happy to have regulators help them ensure that what they do is legal, while making sure that compliance is expensive and difficult enough to deter new entries into the markets.
In what measurable way?
He could support archive.org to scan all the books for free, or just buy the scans from Google (if they sell them). Of course make that free for all. Eventually almost everyone will have a $50 Android, use some sort of wifi and there's your library.
I have no idea what you're trying to express here, since space flight and disease are large issues that governments are really really interested in.
The article also claims that libraries are getting defunded, so you may not have your library up the street for much longer.
Like NASA? Elon Musk is building on top of decades of government funding.
I grew up in one of the poorer places in America - Appalachia. Despite that, we had a nice library, donated initially by a wealthy individual and then sustained by various forms of private funding over the decades.
It didn't always have the absolute latest books, the selection was decent though. It had Internet access very early on and was a valuable, inexpensive resource for young and old people alike. It was also relatively well maintained; pre mid 1990's Web, if you needed to really know a subject in-depth, it was easily the best local resource. The local community benefited immensely from it.
I'd like to see Bezos (and ideally matching contributors) put together an effort to modernize the concept for the 21st century. Virtual reality for example will become an important access technology over the next 20 years, that many lower income people won't be able to afford and will have future job importance in many fields.
A lot of people see a building full of books and wonder why it can't be replaced by a bank of terminals and Google. I won't get in to the relative merits of dead trees vs. electrons, and largely don't care about it. What that line of thought misses is two-fold: the librarians and the community space.
Decent librarians are hugely underrated resources. Great ones can be incredible. Maybe natural language systems will become good enough in my lifetime to handle some of the vague requests librarians routinely manage to match to the right book, but the leaps of association to related topics, the knowledge of the edge cases of information classification to navigate them well, and the general mass of knowledge they accumulate is massively useful to have on hand. And so few people take advantage of it.
Meeting spaces in this context (both formal, sign-up-for-your-group and informal) serve an important role as well. It seems like they're becoming rarer as government buildings use security as an excuse to close to the public, and in calling around to private groups with spaces that previously did that sort of thing have been much more reluctant to do so when I've tried to organize things over the last several years.
To personalize this a bit, I grew up in a poor family. One thing that was heavily emphasized to me was the value of learning - I think it was reaction to missed opportunities. Who knows what would have happened, but I do know that my college essays (written referencing library books, building on interests fostered in the math and the American Lit sections) would have been very different without them, and I kinda doubt I would have gotten a free ride to a top-10 school if I had been only drawing on what public school offered.
 Anecdata alert!
The author is not talking about a global project.
“Hidden in plain sight, the local libraries of America are patiently waiting for your attention”
If 320 million Americans can’t fund libraries, I’m sure several billion others are in great need.
I think donating to the internet archive would be a better donation which a lot more benefit to society than funding physical libraries.
Libraries solve one of the worlds most important problem -
keeping societies important information history safe. Websites are not immune to this problem. They require maintenance. When a webpage goes down its gone forever. Without something like the internet archive, we would not have a modern day library equivalent for the web. We are losing a lot of important information. Physical libraries today are in comparison much less important than digital ones.
Libraries should evolve with the change of technology and move their function from curation and access to information to something that is able to benefit more people. Books occupy volume and removing them would make more room for desks and rooms where people with no access to quiet areas could use to be more productive.
They're still, to this day, very important, and the fact that they're dying is a bad thing.
And to address your second paragraph, libraries have been, some more slowly than others, adapting with the times. My local library system has _three times_ the number of ebooks as they do print books. They provide access to things like EBSCOHost. Heck, the librarians in this system are even trained to help you find jobs.
In fact, all of this was addressed in the article.
It also seems obvious that instead of access to libraries a better use of money would be access to the internet. SpaceX and Facebook are already working on solving this problem. It’s just a matter of technology and infrastructure. If it’s unfeasible to lay wires in remote areas maybe access to internet would better be served by satellites or balloons.
If a person is not educating themselves through the internet what makes you think they would educate themselves at a library? At some point it comes down to personal responsibility and as much money you throw at the problem it will never solve it.
I think one of the best places for a mega-philanthropist to invest would be in the time and places that kids spend outside of public schools. Many of the biggest disadvantages in opportunities for kids are created when they fall behind before and after school and during summers, relative to kids who are better off socioeconomically. These disadvantages compound and are lasting. Safe places to engage in healthy recreation, productive endeavors, and getting something nutritious to eat that they wouldn't otherwise have access to would go a long way for underprivileged youth and have an impact for the rest of their lives.
Raise taxes and on people like Bezos and Gates for the needs of society.
It isn't a specific group of landowners. These sources of profit created by public infrastructure simply and generally make people rich, so you need to tax the rich.
I'm definitely not convinced disincentivizing people from living in walkable distance from libraries and public transit terminals is good. Sounds more like we need the opposite - incentivize walkability, build more libraries and public transit, and more generally incentivize higher density residential to cut down on the total amount of infrastructure needed, because our current scale is unsustainable with current tax models.
Talk about diversity, the library is a place where you get to see people from all walks of life outside the silicon valley bubble (different race, age, handicap). It builds a learning community where people have the opportunity to help each other at a more human level.
Then do the same with legal records, although that is more of a legal problem than a money problem.
I don't know how it is in the US, but for instance German libraries offer to loan ebooks: http://www.onleihe.net/
Donating ereaders and rights to ebooks to libraries seems more effective than printed books.
Big caveats here are Amazon's monopoly position, DRM and copyright and loans for ebooks vs. physical books.
I live in a gentrifying area of NYC. There's a public library branch a few blocks away from me that sees lots of visitors every day. I rarely walk by it and don't see people coming and going.
All that and an electronic girlfriend application to replace the real one you could have picked up at the library.
If you place a 50-year-old book written in English in front of me, I can immediately pick it up and begin reading. Books far older than that are equally as legible and, with care, accessible.
What are the chances that in 50 years that even half of the current ebook formats will be viewable by contemporary technology?
This isn't to say that other formats shouldn't be used or improved, but we have yet to see a medium that is as unfettered and easily used. It's hardly about nostalgia.
I co-founded Peer 2 Peer University  a non profit that brings people together in learning circles to take online courses. When we switched from online-only to face to face meetings in public libraries we started teaching adults who had fallen out of the education system and who were not benefiting from online courses. And I can't say enough positive things about the librarians who we work with.
Bezos should spend (or not spend) in ways and things he values, to maximize what he gets out of what he’s earned.
(P.S. libraries compete with his book selling business! Why wouldn’t he rather sell a ‘library pass’ on a kindle for a monthly subscription?)
Also, they do sell a month-to-month "kindle unlimited" service. It kind of sucks though (last I used it, anyway).
The integration with libraries is super-cool though!
The internet may be a big library, but in many ways it's not a very good one.
No one is going to touch the textbooks in a library.
The secret to my success was reading the textbooks and working through them. Had perhaps twenty days of formal instruction throughout, but when I added up the hours spent it was effectively me and the books for a time equal to eight months' full-time. Couldn't have done it without simply hitting the books. Can't speak for your chums. Maybe they learned in classes or lectures or practical sessions or some such. For me, it was hitting the books.
I'd say the internet has allowed more material to be taught in four years.
Maybe Bezos should fund Libgen :)
Mine have extensive multimedia selections available for access, music rooms with instruments for practice, 3d printers for prototyping, and a wealth of research staff who will help you find specific information that you need. All of the ones in my local area are well attended by the public, at least when I've gone.
This was widely reported in my area last time our trogs wanted to cut our library budgets (even more).
How is Bezos' situation different than Gates?
e: to clarify my second question: How is Bezos' situation different than Gates' when Gates left Microsoft.
Regarding your second question, it is actually a similar scenario to when Gates left Microsoft. Right before Gates left, Microsoft was at one of the highest peak values, $58, almost it's Market cap today if you account for inflation, and a year after Gates left the stock had plummeted to $24 a share. Many would propose that Bezos leaving would actually be more detrimental, as Microsoft at the time was not a growth stock, but a well established money printing machine, while Amazon stock is still banking on future potential.
Gates net worth is almost entirely cash (tens of billions in cash?) and other investments (there's like a holding/investment company that's actually just Gates).
Much better in my opinion than Apple, that is almost solely valued off of a popular phone that the majority of users could replace with a phone 20% of the cost and be just as happy.
I would hope we’re going to make large strides in these in his lifetime. If we could effectively funnel more into R&D sooner, we’d all see the benefits sooner. Cancer(s), for example, might be cured in say 2060 with our current effort, but if we solved the problem by 2030, hundreds of millions would benefit.
Just books, staff and facilities: the three things that libraries always need, won't become obsolete in a few years, and are equally available to all patrons in an area.
Yes, public libraries need to evolve to meet their community's needs as they change. But just as a new coat of paint or solar-powered lighting doesn't strengthen an aging bridge, focusing on the flair rather than the core of what makes a library a library would be foolhardy.
With technology becoming cheaper and cheaper, right now, you can get a good enough computer to access all the world's information (the Internet) for $25. I can imagine that price being more like $5 in the next 10 years.
Since the goal of investing is planning for the future, it'd be an enormous waste to spend all of that money on the antiquated concept of a library. It will be about as useful as investing the money in VHS tapes.
Better education-related goals for billionaires: make more of the copyrighted information available for free public use. Help increase access to good quality internet and computers in poor communities.
Carnegie's legacy, the example used in the article, doesn't translate to the present.
If Bezos wanted to democratize information in a comparable way, perhaps he could underwrite universal access to high-speed Internet. Many many parts of the country still do not have reliable, high-speed, low latency Internet connections.
For many people, their public library is their only access to Internet of any speed. And they're using that connection, the same one this community constantly rallies around as a human right, on the only boxes that public library can afford.
The more personal overhead (like having to rent out a personal office if you work remotely, or having to pay for a computer and internet access) that people can offload o places like libraries, the more money they have to spend on Amazon.
If the Kindle ever was jailbroken, well then the kid or whoever just learned about jailbreaking/hacking. Without Wifi or LTE support, likely no one would really bother.
I find this one inspiring:
ITER itself is (iirc) the largest scientific project on Earth. It is funded by 35 countries, to the tune of billions. They have already had cost overruns (the perpetual curse of modern science it seems) but I doubt that more money would necessarily solve fusion engineering faster. They are currently building the reactor and are on track for first plasma in 2025. An ITER-scale tokamak is as close to a "sure bet" for Q>=1 that you can get. (Their goal is Q=10)
Interestingly, one of the major milestones for ITER is tritium production through breeder blankets - which would solve a critical bottleneck for future, enterprise fusion power systems. (Not to mention scientific research.)
It seems to imply that someone, who wasn't competent enough to make billions of their own, is somehow more apt to know how to better spend them than the one that actually did.
They get paid an hourly wage or salary. Thats their share of the profits. Why are employees magically entitled to profits other than what they agreed to work for?
Not being sarcastic, to me that makes all the difference.
The rest of your comment didn't make much sense to me, however.
I don't think lobbying would be nearly as bad if a) we had publicly funded elections, which takes away the incentive for politicians to be beholden to the interests of donors, and b) we had a mechanism (possibly through a branch of judicial review?) to repeal or amend laws that don't achieve their stated goals.
just keep the money in banks. that's what they do.
I'm not rich in the popular sense of the word (besides having the fortune of being American middle class), but I do have investments by virtue of almost never spending on consumer goods. And having no wife or kids. My coworkers realize after years of seeing me drive the same beater correctly assume I'm in better shape financially, and some have the audacity to jokingly ask me to put them in my will.
Now, I will not deny that I am an extremely fortunate person who is cognitively able, like Bezos or anyone well-connected with material wealth, but what's with the 'he should donate to this cause instead'?
It's his money. He could buy a fleet of yachts, set them on fire, and upload the video footage - why shouldn't he be allowed to do that? At what arbitrary level of wealth does 'his' money become everyone else's money?
I guess out of quite a bit of other threads, I jumped on this particular thread in order to vent, which wasn't the best choice, since, as the article said (and you emphasized) that he was requesting ideas. Or maybe the word "should" always upsets me, and I envision a world where us common people are walking around believing that the more fortunate owe us just because they are wealthy.
This is a good question to ask.
Typically arguments about the ethical demands of wealth are predicated on how that wealth is _acquired_. As a society we suppose that some wealth is acquired "fairly" (say through some amazing talent or hard work), while other wealth is said to be acquired "unfairly" (say through fraud or exploitation).
There's a separate question however that this does not address: regardless of how you have earned your wealth, to what degree are you morally permitted to _retain_ it? To frame the question is slightly different terms, if I am in possession of an expensive life-saving medicine, and my neighbor is in dire need of this medicine, am I morally obligated to give my neighbor this medicine? The question of _how_ I acquired this medicine is quite separate from the question of whether I have a moral right to retain it.
The same question may be asked of exorbitant wealth. If I have enough money to buy a fleet of yachts and set them on fire, and my neighbor does not have enough money to pay for her children's breakfasts, do I have a moral right to set those yachts on fire? Or am I morally obligated to surrender some of my wealth to my neighbor's hungry children?
A news story: "Jeff Bezos Wants Ideas for Philanthropy, So He Asked Twitter"
This is a misguided pursuit of modesty. It's less clear and reads as false, anyway.
Just say what you mean. We all know it's just your opinion without all the weasel words. Nobody is going to mistake it for anything else.
People on the Web will. They hate succinct, accurate, clear (so, good) writing and will settle for nothing short of explicitly disavowing association with or endorsement of any conceivable evil with which an intentional/incompetent misreading of your words could possibly connect you, absurdly hedging and qualifying every statement as if attempting to make a favorable wish with a hostile genie, and burying all opinions in wishy-washy garbage.
Seriously. Since when we pick someone else's pocket and decide what to do with his money?
As you would know, had you at least skimmed the article before summarily dismissing it.
If things keep getting digitalized at the current speed, all knowledge of the world will be accessible online in our lifetime.
Unless you believe that a large percentage of citizens will not be able to afford a device for accessing the internet, libraries are a waste of money.
Oh and since librarians were mentioned, if AI keeps advancing, we will be able to have a conversation with a search engine within 30 years. So who needs a librarian?
Ignoring all of that,you say people can get all of their knowledge online now. Please remember that you're fortunate enough to own a computer or cell phone with a data plan. Many people only have access to the internet at the library.
Libraries have survived through all of history for a reason, the internet will not kill them. If they are defunded they will be formed by people like Bezos who recognize the huge benefit they provide to society.
I wish that were true. It's not.
Libraries cost money. Acquiring, storing, maintaining a book in a room, with climate control and a proper shelter, costs more than storing the same book digitally. Providing access to copies of a physical book, to just a million people spread across the US, is extremely expensive compared to doing the same thing digitally via the Internet. Someone should run an estimate on that, it's such an astounding gap in cost as to be absurd.
There are many good arguments for libraries. That they don't cost money or are somehow free, is not one of them. They're subsidized systems of knowledge, primarily for the benefit of people lacking resources to otherwise access that information inexpensively (along with other various community and peaceful space benefits they usually provide).
Those who aren't responsible for paying taxes always seem to think this
I disagree with that sentiment.. Are books a waste of money? In-person public speaking events? Museums?
The internet is a global Library of Alexandria, but it's absurd to suggest we no longer need smaller repositories of knowledge or physical copies/originals... Especially as the internet is increasingly fractured, censured, monitored, and otherwise limited.
They serve similar but not identical purposes. Libraries have always been more than the books, just like books are more than the facts contained within.
It's true that the Internet is often fractured, censured, monitored, and otherwise limited, but the same can be said of libraries, unfortunately; an example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_Awareness_Program
Online foreign counter-government literature can be globally censored by a national censoring, corporate-critical websites can be taken down by invalid copyright/trademark notices while books cannot be pulled without thorough vetting, and most websites out there slowly decay into dust - far faster than books.
My point is not that books and libraries are superior - it's that they are different from the internet, both tools convey knowledge with unique strengths and weaknesses. I do think it's absurd to simply write them off as "a waste of money", an irredeemable tool that was waiting to be made obsolete.
We will rebalance our usage just like we rebalanced radio after TV came out and TV after the internet - the end-state is a very interesting question, TBD whether books follow the path of vinyl or VCR, but I think "complete elimination" is the most improbable path.
For preservation and dissemination of information, definitely. They might be useful for education, especially children's ed, though.
> In-person public speaking events?
Don't need a library for that, there are many other places this can be done.
Libraries and museums are different.
> Especially as the internet is increasingly fractured, censured, monitored, and otherwise limited.
As if that does not apply to libraries: Once it is legal to censor an item online it will also be removed from libraries.
I agree with him. Libraries are one of the least efficient ways to deliver quality information to to the masses, especially up-to-date information. They are slow, expensive, require driving, paper books slowly rot, buildings occupy useful space.
Have you ever been to a library in the inner city, or in any big city for that matter?
It's absurd to suggest that we need to spend millions building and maintaining traditional public libraries just because some people do not have immediate access to a computer.
Computerized/digital information sources are far more efficient than physical information sources by practically any measure. They are not only easier to use, but they are easier to store, ship, etc. One thick textbook is much heavier than a single Kindle that could store the information equivalent of 100 thick textbooks, and dust mites won't eat the pages of your Kindle. Pretty much the only thing it's missing is a built-in solar power source, but you can probably attach it to USB solar power source, and it seems it'd be easier to get that infrastructure in place v. a whole library.
Seems like we're missing the forest for the trees here.
Also I agree, if a few percent of the population cannot afford to access the internet there is a serious problem.
I just doubt that libraries are an effective way to solve this problem.
I was there looking for inspiration - I wanted some interesting architecture to put into the background of a short comic I was nearly done drawing. Knowing that "architecture" was probably filed near the "art" section, I went up a few floors to where that was. I took my time getting there, as I was kind of there looking for serendipitous discoveries, not one particular tome. I browsed through the cartoon art section on the way and found something I'd always wanted to read. Put that under my arm and kept looking for the architecture section. I discovered that the art section also includes a big collection of file cabinets with Interesting Images clipped from magazines or whatever - visual inspiration, cool! I was looking for something more targeted in this case so I moved on after opening a few random drawers and peering in.
When I finally found the architecture section, I was able to wander through it looking at big coffee-table books full of beautiful photographs very quickly. No waiting for anything to download - I just went "ooh, here's a book on Istanbul, that feels interesting, lemme look at it", and was able to pull it off the shelf and flip through the pages to get an idea of what sort of stuff was to be had within a matter of seconds.
I spent a little while wandering through that section, ultimately leaving with books on the architecture of Cairo and Barcelona under my arm. I went up to the top floor of the library, which is a huge space with a lot of natural light, and a lot of desk lamps for the many times when Seattle is too overcast for that. It was the middle of a weekday, and there were a bunch of people from all parts of society hanging out there reading. Including folks without a home.
I read the book I picked up in the cartoon section, then settled down to the serious business of paging through the architecture books and finding buildings I wanted to borrow. Photographed a few candidates with my phone, then put them on my computer and used them as reference to draw a cityscape. I probably spent a few hours there doing this.
When I was done, I left the books in a neat pile on the desk I was using, and took the long way down. I passed through the fifth floor, which is a vast open space absolutely filled with computers: public access to the internet for those citizens who cannot, indeed, afford a device that can talk to it; a larger screen than a phone and an actual keyboard, and access to printers as well, for those who have a phone as their only privately-owned internet access. I don't need that, I'm sitting here in front of a 24" monitor, but there are a lot of people even in a rich town like Seattle who do. And it's also a place for the people who need that to get the hell out of the rain, and chill out with a book - maybe they're learning something, maybe they're just reading some escapism, whatever, both are great.
And who needs a librarian? Well, everyone who needs to research something right now, instead of thirty years from now. Or sixty years from now, given that most of these kinds of predictions tend to take at least twice as long to come true, if they ever do.
Having this big building that takes up a whole block of downtown real estate also makes a statement: Knowledge is something this city values.
For example, I don't think many on the right disagree that funding prenatal care is a good thing--but some major prenatal care providers, such as Planned Parenthood, also provide abortion services and so some politicians want to cut all their funding to make sure none of the Federal money goes to abortions. A whole bunch of women's health services get cut in order to make sure there is no chance the money ends up helping abortions.
So I'd like to see some billionaire, or some well-funded charity like the Gates Foundation, build several clinics that provide free abortions around the country in the states with the least restrictions on abortions, and fund a program that provides free travel to and from those clinics for women in the states with restrictive laws that have forced most such clinics to close.
Then organizations like Planned Parenthood can get completely out of the abortion business, taking away the major excuse that is used to cut their funding.
State legislators can stop spending a lot of time coming up with new ways to try to shut down abortion clinics in their states (because shutting down such clinics will no longer stop the abortions), and state attorney generals can stop wasting time defending those attempts in court, and maybe they will finally realize that the best way to reduce abortions is to make it so people don't need them in the first place. Maybe then states like Texas can drop their idiotic "abstinence only" approach to sex eduction (which has resulted in soaring teen pregnancy rates...) and switch to something actually effective.
Edit: any down voters care to name specific objections? That Planned Parenthood provides a lot of useful women's health services that are not related to abortion should not be controversial. That abortion is the main reason Congress wants to completely defund PP should also not be controversial. That "abstinence only" programs are a massive failure is pretty well documented. That many states keep passing abortion restrictions which then get challenged and often struck down as unconstitutional is not controversial.
If you're pro-life, you probably don't like the idea that someone is spending billions to fund abortions.
If you're pro-choice, you probably don't like the idea of Planned Parenthood conceding their abortion services because of political pressure.