I have a friend who found a red envelope with some money in it in a book that he'd checked out of the library. He figured it belonged to whoever had checked the book out earlier, so he went into the branch and mentioned it. They said that they could find out the last person to read the book, but no more than that, because by and large, librarians (at least in that system) deliberately avoided keeping long term records of what people are reading, to safeguard privacy rights.
Can you imagine Netflix or Amazon, Google or Facebook behaving this way? Could be that I'm from an older generation, but there was a time when people considered the idea of an institution having a long and complete list of everything you've read more than creepy, it was terrifying. Add in cell phone tracking devices that show where we are, map apps that show where we go at what time and what routes we take, commence sites that show what we buy and consider buying. You know for a while there it was impossible to remove a film from your recently watched list on Netflix? (the tech advice was to just select a bunch of stuff randomly and bury it deep if you didn't want it sitting there for everyone else to see the next day).
Libraries don't play nearly as much of a role in making sure that people can access information privately as they used to, they've been shoved out of the way, but they were far more principled guardians of it than tech companies (I mean, night and day, they were guardians, tech companies are rapacious violators of this principle).
This is the difference between having a sense of civic duty and community vs. not. The customer/business relationship is a poor substitute for the real thing, even when they try to foster the trappings of false "community."
there was a time when people considered the idea of an institution having a long and complete list of everything you've read more than creepy, it was terrifying.
As it should be. There are institutions and cohorts of society trying to control access to information and opinion. This has been going on for quite some time. Noam Chomsky co-wrote a book about it in the 80's.
Libraries don't play nearly as much of a role in making sure that people can access information privately as they used to, they've been shoved out of the way, but they were far more principled guardians of it than tech companies
A librarian friend of mine noted that libraries had come into the business of de-facto social work.
A sense of civic duty?
These words sounds like they are from another period.
I think this is low in the mindshare of the population of many western countries. As a society we're mostly concerned with personal progress, social influence and monetisation.
In the words of Toby Keith - It's all about me, it's all about I, it's all about #1...
"“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. " Margaret Thatcher, 1987
It used to be that people would make a living then give something back in later life - either public service such as becoming a politician or joining one of the many societies like the Rotary Club that performs philanthropic acts.
Now politics is a career, philanthropy is the preserve of the astonishingly wealthy and everyone cares about nothing but self, making a buck and what they can get.
We lost a huge amount in that process. I sincerely hope we see it rise again sometime soon.
Nobody gets shadowbanned on HN for using the term neoliberalism.
I'm going to guess from the age of your account that you had a former account which was banned, and I would bet money that using the word "neoliberalism" was not the cause of it.
Neoliberalism is more of an academic, economic concept, it's not inherently anti-community, it just happens to be.
McDonald's and Starbucks don't want to wipe out civic cohesiveness etc., but it just might happen in some situations wherein everyone ends up working for 'large corps' instead of local businesses etc..
The opposite political ideology is called 'Communitarianism'. It does not have a current identifiable place in America politics.
The Christian Democrats (i.e. Angela Merkel in Germany) are of this philosophy, it's more of a culturally conservative kind of socialism, it puts families, communities, people and the wellbeing of said groups at the centre of political and economic objectives. It's done in a localist manner (in the same way the Catholic Church has given great local leeway to parishes etc.), i.e. local context matters more than top-down authorities etc..
Whether you buy into it or not, I suggest it's really sad that it's missing from the American dialogue because a lot of that is just what we need right now.
Inherently localist ideals have a hard fight against more globalist ones (neoliberalism, state socialism) for obvious reasons ... if there were more established Communitarian ideals, I'll bet Donald Trump would not be president right now.
The personal freedom to buy your social housing (without building more), have a personal pension with individual charges (with no attempt to ensure "enough" pension or group benefits), the privatisation of community and state assets and on and on. The removal of community power by constraining the rights and budgets of local government, centralising ever more then privatising or closing in the search of market solutions and smaller government. At a higher level it enabled the rise of globalisation.
There was absolutely need to re-balance in the seventies and constrain the unions. Effectively abolishing them was perhaps too much seeing today's gig economy and zero hours contracts. Another example of personal responsibility! After thirty years neoliberalism appears to be a means to restore the pre-war gilded age inequalities whilst completely forgetting why the post-war consensus (social security, society and Bretton Woods) came about.
Hopefully Communitarianism will get its chance soon.
Government sector Unions for example need to be reformed.
And FYI 'personal responsibility' existed long, long before neoliberalism as an ideal.
Communitarianism fundamentally requires 'personal responsibility' as one cannot 'help the community' until one has 'one's own house in order' so to speak. It goes even further: Communitarianism implies that 'personal responsibility' actually includes responsibility towards the community.
My grandparent owned a large lumberyard and employed people fairly, and in their retirement, spent several days a week visiting retirement homes, playing music, entertaining, 'doing stuff' in the community etc.. That's communitarianism.
But yes - neoliberalism does require the 'breakdown of the community' in the classical sense. They would be happy if we were replaced with docile, human drones that work, consume, and don't have opinions.
The Air Traffic union in the US seems, from this side of the Atlantic, much less clear cut. They seemed to be a middle class, white collar union. Reagan supported them during campaign, then after election crucified them.
Nonetheless both cases were the start of the neoliberal changes and the neutering of unions good, bad and indifferent.
I should have made myself clearer, I meant personal responsibility and choice as political catch phrase. It was the well worn 1980s selling point and justification of many of the changes and privatisations. Many of them in areas that were generally accepted as having a place in society, such as social housing etc. Which is not at all the same as real personal responsibility and civic duty.
My own parents did similar - neither of them talked about it much or felt any need to show anyone what good they were doing. They quietly did it as part of their beliefs, contributing to the community.
If you are criticising neoliberalism, depending on the conversation and thread, it's distinctly possible you may be downvoted to oblivion. That's a different, and disappointing, thing. :)
Company: A community is an asset to a company.
Cell phones happened and Facebook happened and everyone was like "Hell yeah this is awesome!". Later on, it became clear that all these companies were offering services were slurping up all kinds of information about us that given the choice we probably would say no to.
But when the cost of gaining back that privacy is giving up all these conveniences we've come to base our lives around, it becomes a pretty tough sacrifice to make.
"That's the whole point."
When I lived in a semi-rural area as a teenager the library was one of the few places me and my geeky friends could congregate for hours. They would let us reserve meeting rooms so we could play games together. If that library hadn't been there we would have had no third place.
The public libraries in Seattle are an amazing thing. My wife goes to "kids play time" with our ten month old son at a couple of different libraries every week. And we can also bring him in to the kids play area any time and take the kids area books on the honor system. It's a really great way to interact with other kids until we start using day care or he gets to preschool age. And it gives my wife a chance to meet other parents and get a break.
They also provide a free subscription to Lynda with your library card.
You can also get free tickets to a lot of local museums: https://www.spl.org/programs-and-services/arts-and-culture/m...
I'm so damn glad King county does a good job maintaining the community libraries.
Are you sure that's true? I mean, my local library (like most, I'm sure) has a fully digital checkout log which keeps a pretty decent amount of state for active records.
A pretty reasonable architecture, given the size (small) of the system, would simply keep this data around for as long as needed. Sure, they might not be particularly diligent about backups and preservation for stale/useless data. And no, they probably aren't exploiting it to sell you ads.
But I'd bet anything that they aren't deliberately purging old data. They probably have it all sitting around somewhere, because frankly that's the obvious implementation choice. Designing systems to affirmatively delete stuff (and not break in crazy ways) is actually fairly hard, and libraries aren't given to elaborate engineering.
I'm willing to bet that the quote you got from the librarian was aspirational: she doesn't keep data, she cares about privacy, and she hopes and expects that the people who wrote the backend do too. My intuition says otherwise.
> For example, if the LMS offers the ability to save the checkout history, this should be an opt-in feature not turned on as a default.
The policy also recommends libraries minimize collection of data in general, use HTTPS whenever possible, and maintain a warrant canary.
See also: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/privacy/FAQ
I worked at a much larger library system in the same city and I know for the fact that most do need to keep such transactions for years, at least for tracking and billing patrons for books lost or never returned. After another few years, they sell their overdues to (debt) collection agencies for a few pennies on the dollar.
n.b. My company creates and manages library software.
Policies haven't gotten much worse. The ease of data aggregation has simply gotten much better.
So yes, I can imagine when it was normal to be able to know who borrowed a book last.
This was also common in Japan as it's important to the plot of the movie "Whispers of the Heart" (English title)
Which was fascinating: "Wow, no one has checked this out in a decade!"
I think younger people are just in general more relaxed about privacy.
Wasn't that more or less part of the plot of either SE7EN or Along Came a Spider (or maybe some other late-90s procedural thriller)? tl;dr they tracked down the suspect because the NSA or FBI was secretly keeping records of library checkouts.
Library's true customer is the reader and hence everything is designed to suite the reader. For Amazon the true customer (!) is the shareholder whose value needs to be maximised. That is why Amazon has astronomical market value where as libraries mostly depend on charity or taxpayer funding. There is a good reason why Amazon can offer you millions of products but a local library will have only thousands of books. There is a good reason why Netflix can afford to produce so much original content for your tastes but the libraries do not produce anything original. The factors you are citing are correlated.
There is no value judgement here, but I think we need to appreciate the good both kind of organisations are doing to the world and they are not comparable.
Libraries were invented because information was only available on printed (or hand written) books, which were very expensive and scarce resources.
Now information can be available almost literally for free and instantly, to anywhere. If the institutional inertia of libraries didn't exist today, would they really be invented as they are?
The modern plutocrat is mostly a strictly transactional affair, who has dumbed business down to resource extraction.
I became involved in my city's library system a few years ago when they did a branch expansion that I was initially opposed to for money reasons. I flipped and am now a library fan.
I discovered that it's an environment for learning, social interaction and collaboration. You have programs for little kids where they interact with books for the first time. The elementary kids start collaborating on computers and doing other programs. Older kids are building robots, reading manga, having fun in a meaningful, beneficial way.
The failed promise of the internet that I bought into in the 90s is that access to information will set you free. Yet we find ourselves dominated by propaganda via things like Facebook -- Internet is the new TV. The reality is that information in the context of a meaningful environment is the magic. The library adds value and context to information. It's a situation where the value is greater than the sum of the parts.
Would you count Project Gutenberg, archive.org or SciHub? I'd also add Bittorrent and other p2p networks as media libraries. I bet there is plenty of lesser known archives like http://web.textfiles.com/
But what you get on HN is curation, and a community of like minded people. The library is that in physical form, available to everyone.
They did reinvent them, but in the spirit of the times they're mostly located in neighborhoods that are already more educated, more wealthy, and already have public library access.
I have one and that idea seems insane to me. The book box to me is a nice landscaping feature, a place to drink coffee with my neighbors, a signal about my politics, a way for us to unload books & my attempt to get rad comics to school kids. I’d never correlate it to a public lending library.
In the face of funding declines for libraries, it also doesn't seem very ridiculous for someone to suggest. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/04/ameri...
Also as an aside, if you are thinking about doing a book box there is no need to give the littlefreelibrary organization money. You can just put one up.
A more pertinent link: https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/01/02/question-li...
> But Hale and Schmidt point to at least one place where Little Free Libraries are seen as a substitute for true public library services. When budget cuts caused the El Paso (Tex.) Public Library to implement a $50 annual fee for nonresidents to use the library system, the tiny town of nearby Vinton came up with a plan: five Little Free Libraries spread around the community. The town would build them, and keeping them stocked with books would be up to the people of Vinton themselves.
> When Detroit Public Library (DPL) closed its Gabriel Richard branch in 2011, 4th graders at a local elementary school installed a colorful painted bookcase and a sign reading “Outdoor Library” in front of the shuttered building. It was one of four libraries to close that year—two have since reopened, though only two to three days a week.
I see the argument could be made. I’m wondering how often it is.
And I’d be shocked if it was ever made by people who are housing book boxes. Quite the opposite I’d bet they were generally strong proponents of public libraries.
If libraries didn't already exist, I can't imagine the copyright lobby allowing them to be invented.
Libraries legally own the material they lend out, and have the legal right to lend it. They exist because of copyright law, not in spite of it.
And if the "copyright lobby" (whatever that is) was so powerful, there are any number of things they could have stopped, like VCRs or photocopiers or even the internet itself.
Given that libraries are largely funded locally, should they not have existed, we would be seeking out the creation of more shared public spaces that don't require you to spend money to spend time there. These sorts of 3rd places are important, although I do agree that the modern plutocrat isn't the sort of person who is likely very safe when it comes to visiting these sorts of public spaces, and hence have an aversion to them.
> Just this week, a woman stopped by our desk because she needed to be taught how to open a new tab in an internet browser. She returned a few minutes later and said, “Please write ‘stomach ache’ on this piece of paper for me. I don’t know to spell it.” The man waiting behind her had no idea how to open an internet browser to begin his first job search in years. I walked him through the process and helped him get to a job site. This was a few minutes of a 40-hour workweek.
> I can’t imagine where this woman and this man would go without the library. Would Amazon really be willing to help them with all of their needs free of charge?
Information is available “almost literally for free and instantly” to people who can afford a device that connects to the internet.
... and who have a sufficient working knowledge of how computers and the internet work in order to take advantage of that information.
In line with what you and others have said, what I've observed at the libraries I've been to is that the people who get the most value out of libraries are the people that would otherwise be left behind by technology. I don't think that's something we can or should dismiss out of hand just because I/we don't personally get a lot of value from them. That is, unless we want to develop an underclass of people shut out from the rest of society.
The only downside of creating an underclass is when they commit crimes; but managing this downside is part of the police's job.
(n.b. income inequality isn't illegal; theft and murder, are.)
Immersed as we are in it, I think people forget that the internet is a skill. Finding things and filtering the results is the result of experience.
There's nothing improved about the argument, it's just obfuscated better.
No. The internet almost always costs the individual money to access, unlike public libraries. That means the internet is less accessible to low income people.
Also public libraries have evolved into one of the main ways that many people access the internet. It's foolish to advocate replacing public libraries with something that the public libraries actually provide for many of their patrons.
Free: Transportation to go to your library (2x train ticket, or car + gas): minimum ~$5 / day so $60 a month, plus library card if not free
Instantly: ~30 minutes to go, 30 minutes to get back home, depending on where you live. Worst internet connection need a few seconds.
Anywhere: you have to physically go to the one library and hope you find the book you're looking for. Nowadays you have internet access pretty much anywhere.
so sure, that sucked in comparison, but no one was monetizing my activity. i didn't have to struggle against a suggestion machine that had decided I was in a different field. no one was showing me advertisements.
no question that digitizing and indexing the worlds information has been a huge benefit, but there isn't any fundamental reason why we had to invite all these sleezy business people into our lives in exchange. they just latched onto a new thing, seeped into any available crack, and presented themselves as part of the package.
a post internet library would be global, noncommercial, unfettered access to as many resources possible (hi Brewster).
My first comment was just about cost and (spatial/temporal) availability, in response to the parent.
The main city library is like a 10 minute walk -- though I don't like to walk so I ride my bike when I want to go up there. Costs me zero dollars to get there and library cards are free for everyone in the county.
Admittedly...I chose to live not in the suburbs so pretty much everything I need is a bike ride away.
A homeless person won't have an internet connection or a computer.
A poor person won't necessarily have a computer.
Internet in some rural areas is not just slow, but also spotty.
For the large majority of people (95%+), as per my last message, the library is not always preferable in terms of cost, distance and availability, that's all. There are reasons most people don't go. But for some, libraries are still relevant. Please notice that I never said the libraries are useless.
Even a poor rural person, usually working a lot and living far from a city center, might not have the time nor the financial resources to often go to the library.
Also, I've seen homeless people with a cheap tablet in NYC streets using the Link NYC hotspots  for free charging and WiFi.
It's also kind of sad that this logic is so prevalent with regards to software, films, music, etc.
Children's books would not exist with libraries. You'd probably find that without the library most of the deeper catalog for publishers would not be viable.
(Also, I'm pretty sure publishers know this, and I don't think anyone of them have made serious arguments against libraries. It's digital media and its zero-cost reproduction that gives everyone fits.)
Even for popular books, it drives demand. You can wait 8 weeks to read the latest James Patterson, or buy it now. But would you buy the previous books in the series @ $20/ea?
Our economic system is fundamentally broken, in that we need to give creators more financial support. Throwing our books into our current Intellectual Property mess isn't going to fix that, just like it hasn't really fixed that for other media for the past 20 years.
We need to bring non-library media closer towards the library model, rather than the reverse.
Not in any sense of the word. I'm rebuking the post's idea that those things shouldn't be focused on making money.
When information is free having somewhere to study that information, that isn't your shared apartment, becomes more important. Having somewhere to meet people to talk about the information, that isn't a crowded coffee shop, becomes more important. Having the expertise to find the right information, that isn't necessarily blog posts nor research pappers, again becomes more important.
Libraries are only useless to the extent that they haven't expanded. But in line with the resource curse it ends up being more lucrative to work in information technology rather than with information technology. So while many other industries are struggling the large tech companies are making bank by being part of the problem.
Libraries were formed to share very expensive printed books in a common space. Over the centuries, books and information became very cheap, and now mostly the common space remains.
It certainly has real value. Do we need to keep the pretense of the books as the real purpose for it?
That said, access to books is still a vital service. Not all printed publications are cheap, and not all books can be replaced by Wikipedia (even if you completely ignore fiction, as that argument does by necessity).
Max Headroom, episode ABC.1.3 "Body Bags":
Paula: "...what's that?"
Blank Reg: "It's a book!"
Paula: "Well, what's that?"
Blank Reg: "It's a non-volatile storage medium.
It's very rare. You should have one."
Books still work when the power goes out or the copyright cartels revoke - intentionally or not - your ereader's license. Widespread preservation of knowledge on non-volatile media is protection against future problems.
Libraries also gave net access for those without.
They probably wouldn't be invented as they are, but given those groups without access I would want them to be.
It's possible that libraries are the best way to do that but it's also possible that there are other, better ways.
And they still have books.
It's embarrassing to admit that, but it's the truth.
Brilliant. I foolishly bought some books recently. Where can I read them for free instead, apart from the library? Is this going to involve piracy? I'm not sure I'm really into that.
I'd love to see digital archives of all the books ever written, but we're not there yet.
Nevermind the fact that reading a physical book avoids much of the issues with blue light that screens produce
Please be aware of the distinction between public libraries (as is the general semantic implication when speaking of ”libraries”) serving the whole of the public; national libraries serving the whole of the public, creating systems for the retrieval of information and preserving the cultural memory of the world together with museums and archives; school libraries serving childrens’ and youths’ education; research libraries serving students, scientists, researchers and professionals in, for example, law, medicine, health sciences, industrial research on conducting research, referencing and preserving research data; hospital libraries serving the physically and mentally ill and disabled; and special libraries serving domain-based interests of for example artists, industry professionals and cultural institutions.
Also be aware of the fact that Library and Information Science as a scientific multidisciplinary field researches topics such as information theory, machine learning, cultural heritage, sociology, linguistics, comparative literature, knowledge organization, information retrieval, computer science, pedagogy, critical theory, didactics.
I also suggest a systematic literature study on the term ”information literacy”.
They are really community centers and in my view well worth it.
Oh. Right. That'd be the library.
And the steelman is a bit weak in its limbs - you could certainly make the argument that the point of original libraries wasn't the scarcity issue, but the discoverability issue. ("Just travel to Alexandria" is almost certainly not significantly cheaper than paying a scribe to create a copy)
We could also argue that they're the precursors of modern universities, because they offered a central place for scholars to gather.
Both - building a community, and making knowledge more discoverable - are still major purposes for today's libraries. (If you thought searching the Internet for info is helpful, try a librarian)
In a different timeline, libraries might not be buildings full of books, but there'd still be a purpose for librarians.
Pretty much the tech version of
"I am a W.A.S.P., I pretend everybody that has different economic, social, and cultural differences from me doesn't exist"
If you could please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules when posting here, we'd appreciate it.
Edit: looks like you've done this more than once and also posted a bunch of unsubstantive comments. Could you please fix this? We're trying for somewhat better here.
Library use is declining across the board, but especially quickly in rural communities, among those with less than a high school degree, and among African americans.
To paraphrase Eddie Izzard, it's like the traveling Briton visiting Afghanistan. "Sausage, egg and chips please... you do speak English, you just don't try!"
Many libraries loan out ebooks!!! It’s very convenient and free.
The "I'm alright jack" mentality
This doesn't at all capture what libraries actually do but the argument that we could be doing information access better and cheaper really just comes down to how the numbers come out.
If all you have is this library and time, you could pick up an instrument, learn how to play it, record a weekly podcast/vlog with your progress, edit the video, upload it to Youtube, and design your own artwork. Don't know how to do one of these things? Go pick up a book on it. You can launch an entire career for almost nothing. I'd like to see Amazon do that.
I bring this specific case because, to me, it's an example of all a public library can be when we consider them a public service rather than a burden.
Libraries and the services they offer can be an instrument for people to bring themselves out of poverty and for people to be able to grow and advance through education.
I personally think of it like this - if I didn't have a job, where would I "go to work every day"? If I didn't have an income, and I couldn't get a job, I could go to a library. And a library could be the key to me finding a job, or work, or making it for myself.
A library is a positive place to go with something to do, when otherwise, maybe I would have nothing, which can help me.
My personal desire is not to disrupt libraries, but instead the opposite - to actually extend what they do until it gives even more people a chance to start their own business, find their own careers, or simply learn and educate themselves for work or pleasure.
Lest we forget, that library science is the foundation of information science!
We are bullish on libraries. However, libraries have to keep updating their services and offer community engagement services.
I hope you find the employment you are looking for. And I hope she does as well.
Wish her all the best! :)
>My assumption is they shelve books, maybe make recommendations, and hold weekly community events? And nowadays, help with social services like helping people create resumes and what not?
Replying to mehblahwhatevs comment which does not have a reply link
No offense taken. The ALA (American Library Association) and libraries have deemed a Master required for as long as I can remember. In community settings, a Masters may not provide that much benefit, other than in getting the job. In academic settings, a Masters helps with taxonomy and other data classification issues and more. Reference librarians face sometimes challenging research problems. Digital librarians need exposure and some practice to tools and techniques. While a Masters does not guarantee that exposure and also that experience can be gained without schooling, libraries seem to like (as in require) the stamp of approval.
It's hard to make a proper living as a librarian when you have to get what is typically a liberal arts UG degree ($$) and a Masters ($$) for jobs that start at the low to mid $40s (US). Crazy huh? My daughter is lucky, her UG degree was 100% free other than room and board, she got in-state tuition for her Masters (VA to FLA because of an agreement that schools have) and earned some significant scholarship $ at Fla State. So her ROI will be more favorable than many other newly minted librarians.
What exactly do they do that requires knowledge?
My assumption is they shelve books, maybe make recommendations, and hold weekly community events? And nowadays, help with social services like helping people create resumes and what not?
No kidding. One of the best(worst) ways wars were waged in the past were to burn the libraries. Without knowledge, a civilization quickly suffocates.
I don't think many would argue against, lending knowledge and technology as a way to help poor countries, rather than just giving them raw cash.
The value in terms of other benefits (which save financially and in other, more difficult to measure ways) is also pretty clear:
That's the end of the free research I'll do to prove you wrong, because frankly, it's extremely obvious to me and everyone else here that you're a troll and education is valuable to society and has a positive return on investment. Use google yourself, do a thorough investigation, or you aren't worth a damn.
It also occurs to me that you don't understand the meaning of the word "invaluable". Here's help: https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/invaluable
In Germany, the plurality of kids finish school at Grade 10. Does it make our economy better and more competitive that we make kids endure school through Grade 12, and now are increasingly pushing them to do it through Grade 16? Or is it just a zero sum game?
Libraries allow for all types of education, not just institutionalized education. This helps facilitate learning. I shouldn't have to provide you any stats that show that gleaning wisdom from the past attempts of others can result in learning. And to cut through the web of semantic bullshit you are building here, learning is absolutely invaluable.
Oh boy, I guess I'm the one who has to tell you that causality can't actually be proven with regards to real events ever, and that correlation and repeated experiments don't conclusively prove anything, they just give us some very good authority with which to make a claim. Correlation doesn't prove causation, but it can suggest it very strongly.
And again, here you are arguing about university education in a discussion about libraries.
It's written by an education economist as a response to Bryan Caplan's recent book and I think it'll help give a basic notion of what people in the field think (and some understanding of the research.)
I also think a definition of 'invaluable' as 'unable to be valued' instead of 'infinite value' is necessary here. I see in another comment you've commented that opportunities shouldn't be locked behind golden gates. Even those of us who think education has a high value agree with that!
Furthermore the original comment mentions education and information. Surely you agree that information has value. But if I sat down and tried to read one of your amicus briefs it'd probably be difficult for me to understand and I'd almost certainly miss important details. So how do you learn to understand them? Education.
>Does it make our economy better and more competitive that we make kids endure school through Grade 12, and now are increasingly pushing them to do it through Grade 16? Or is it just a zero sum game?
I'm gonna quote from that link above.
In fact, signaling almost certainly is productive. Sure, in the simplest signaling model where there's only one job, education signaling is zero-sum (if you get ahead it's at the expense of others). But as soon as you introduce multiple, different, occupations, that changes! For a basic example of this, say you have two occupations, each with room to employ half the population, "Simple" and "Complex." In Simple, everyone produces 1. In Complex, smarties (half the pop) produce 4 and everyone else produces 0. In extreme-land where there's no signaling, people are basically assigned to jobs randomly, everyone gets paid a wage of 1, and average production is .51 + .5(.54+.50) = 1.5.
Now introduce a completely wasteful, no-HC education signal. Ed is free for smarties, but it costs 3 for everyone else because they'd have to hire tutors. Now, employers know who the smarties are, and they all get Complex jobs. Others get Simple jobs. Production is .51 + .5(4) = 3. Smarties get a wage of 4 and others get a wage of 1. Others don't bother going to school - they'd get a wage bump of 3 but they'd spend it all on school anyway, so why bother?
Here, signaling alone doubled production (this approach is generally called "matching"). There's a reason we call signaling outcomes the "second-best" outcome in game theory, and not "the really awful outcome" - because it can increase efficiency over NOT having the signal.
All of which is to say that education is some part signaling, some part development and mostly made up of parts that are impossible to distinguish between the two with current research methods. But even considering that it's still not a zero-sum game. And all of this is only considering the narrow range of economistic thinking about education, once you go from the frame of educating workers to educating citizens it gets even more important (and even more tangled.)
>The BLS chart shows correlation, not causation.
I mean this is almost philosophical but how would you ever distinguish actual causation there? I got involved in a thread here the other day about distinguishing environmental from genetic effects and the basic answer there was that researchers currently aren't able to distinguish certain effects. I suspect the answer here is similar
The former is valuable. The latter is worse than uninteresting.
Ask a librarian.
I should come clean, I'm also a university employee. I do agree with you that we require too much formal education in many cases, and would add that the financial cost of university education in the US is outrageous. However, education, independent of universities, clearly has great value. Libraries in particular are very cheap; a single library can service many thousands of people with only a few employees.
Personally, I'd like to see industry embrace educational resources like Coursera, so we can move away from the expensive, often predatory university model that locks many fields behind golden gates.
This is probably the best hint that they might not be so useful. The truth is most people never go to libraries.
This is one of the busiest library systems in the country, but shows that, at least within a local region, libraries may be heavily used.
The truth is, most people don't go to _any_ single place. A lot of people frequent libraries, but they're probably not in the same socioeconomic place as you. When you wrote that last sentence, did you stop to think that maybe you don't really know what you're talking about?
You know nothing about libraries. Go to one.
>> This is probably the best hint that they might not be so useful. The truth is most people never go to libraries.
> "Most people," huh? Got a source for that?
His real name must be "Most People" and what he said is entirely an anecdote describing his own personal habits and preferences.
Just this week, they bought more property adjacent to the building because the new library is running out of parking.
That's a lot of people not going to a library. :)
Perhaps, but most* people would benefit from doing so.
* >= 50%
Patron privacy has always been a bedrock of librarianship:
>Horn was jailed for nearly three weeks for contempt of court after refusing to testify for the prosecution in the 1972 conspiracy trial of the "Harrisburg Seven" anti-war activists.
Our county library system gets $22 million a year in tax dollars to service 2.4 million visits. Could Amazon meet those needs more cheaply? If so, that is a win.
 - https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/aug...
 - https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Sta...
 - https://www.cihi.ca/en/health-spending
 - https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/health-costs-how-the-us-...
Just a quick example: How many of these libraries allow poor/low income/homeless to learn new skills or use their free internet to find jobs they wouldn't otherwise be able to find, in the end becoming tax paying contributing members of society?
They are an invaluable community resource that absolutely returns what goes into it.
Eh, I see both sides of the coin. Education is a great place to spend money. But American governments are really good at throwing money at things that look like education, but do very little in terms of measurable gains.
Case in point: my Cupertino public high school now has ten times the number of assistant principals as it did when I attended, but maybe 10% more students.
You're absolutely correct that education spending at the federal level is ridiculously low! There just might be an important qualifier to that.
In Alameda county we recently had a vote to raise taxes to fund libraries and it passed overwhelmingly - 76% voted yes. The people here think they're valuable.
The fact they are not paying taxes right now is not a bad thing. We've benefited from them pushing commerce for the last decade
And my library system already works with the schools to provide free lunches to any child, anyone under 18, all summer long. So. Have your cheese stick and carrots and eat them too, then read a book :)
Put another way: when's the last time you saw Amazon, or a company like Amazon, do something out of the "goodness of their heart" ?
I question your premise. There are other KPI's in this world besides numerical financial efficiency.
"Could Amazon meet those needs more cheaply? If so, that is a win."
Only if those who currently use the library are able to use Amazon with the same regularity. Is Amazon providing children's summer reading programs? Is Amazon providing an air conditioned space during the summer heat waves and a heated space during winter cold snaps? Is Amazon actually helping you do research?
Amazon couldn't and shouldn't do this type of work.
I also host a software development meetup at our local library, and I'm pretty sure that this is commonplace in the software meetup/user group world.
Even Thomas Sowell, a man that isn't fond of government ventures, frequently talks about how important libraries were to his intellectual development as a child.
i strongly agree with this point. Freedom to educate onselfes without using institutionalised education is also VITAL for a democracy to function properly.
People seem to forget libraries are one of the only places one can gain new knowledge regardless of their economic state or status. (atleast, that is how it works in my country).
The idea of Amazon taking over the library literally has tears in my eyes right now, in the middle of a public room: absolutely not.
I grew up with no resources, uneducated parents, and the library was my refuge and why I made it to a successful position the first time.
Take the Library away and I'm done for, and poor people never have a chance.
> We give them a running start in helping improve their lives.
Oh, you can check out books there, too.
It makes me sad that there are people who want to get rid of these places. And what's worse is that they'd use exactly these reasons to get rid of them--the homeless and the recluses hang out there!
Amazon only makes as much money as it does because it manages to avoid paying tax while utilizing the infrastructure built and maintained by collecting taxes.
It would still make a lot of money without all of that, though.
Amazon is top of mind when it comes to simplicity when shopping on the internet, period. You can't take that away from them with the torrent of anti-amazon memes you are clearly quoting from.
Our shitty governments have not successfully taxed them, and have been literally giving themselves up to Amazon for the "jobs they create" for the last decade. If you wanted Amazon to turn all of that down so they could make less money you are fucking kidding yourself.
Exactly. They can afford to pay taxes.
> Amazon to turn all of that down so they could make less money you are fucking kidding yourself.
Do you think the government's inabilty to effective claim taxes is in a vacuum and not driven by these large corporations? Amazon is not just innocently taking advantage of these loopholes because they happen to be there. The are actively fighting to keep them open and create more.
Later on my little community library had cassette music to rent, so I enjoyed Paul Simon, the Manhattan Transfer and Alan Parsons.
The magazine racks had all the back issues of computer magazines I could never find.
I learned so much I would walk there on weekends and just spend an afternoon. I went back there a couple years ago and the microfiche area was now a bank of PCs and I didn't see the music section, but even though such things change, I'm glad my community library is still around for this generation to use. There's no means of discovery quite like browsing racks and finding some interesting journal or book you never knew existed.
I personally I am glad that these neighborhood book warehouses exist, we personally take our kids to checkout books about monthly. But as an adult? Almost all my check outs are via inter library loan, and even then my county’s selection of books as limited. Need a recent copy of a “home construction costs” estimator? Good luck. Looking for an obscure 70s novel your dad told you about? They threw it away in the 80s.
A “national library” inter library loan system would be AMAZING. I know my college had something like that, but a single loan could cost $35-50. If a Seattle company (because, come on, Amazon isn’t Silicon Valley) could create a system that lowers that price to pennies per loan that disruption it would be a positive thing.
And then we’d be even further along path we are on now-that we need libraries, but do libraries need books?
I also appreciate being able to browse the small selection of fiction/non-fiction at our local branch. As with the bookstore, I often pick up things I wouldn't dream of searching for online and would therefore never have found.
I likewise wish my library system had more of a "long tail" stored somewhere. Older books (no matter how popular and well-known they were at one time) are often simply not available.
I had practically written off libraries when I was in my 20s:
* The hours didn't mesh well with my work schedule
* I could afford to buy whatever I was interested in
* They never had the up-to-date programming books I wanted/needed
That has changed completely now that I'm a parent. And yes, I do think libraries need books. Communities need books. This stuff needs to be available, even if just in principle.
I was skeptical but surprised to find that my local library system has one copy each of:
* Introduction to Algorithms
* The Art of Computer Programming (vol 1)
* The Pragmatic Programmer
But the list of computer science classics they don't have is far larger. What they do have are a ton of of titles like _Teach Yourself Visual Basic.NET in 21 Days_ (real) and _Excel 14.2.32.rev13 for Boneheads_ (made up). No doubt it reflects what patrons are requesting...but I would personally wish for a collection that leans a little more heavily on the perennial classics.
As this article states, that arrogance to think that everything should/can be "disrupted". Usually the argument for disruption is always around another version of "making the world a better place", while it is very clear that the main motivation is to make a couple tech CEOs and tech workers even richer.
It's not exactly open, but it's reasonably hackable, and works just fine with no direct access to the Internet. I've never tried the wifi model (replace the "c" in the model with a "w", IIRC), since avoiding wireless issues was part of what drove me to this model in the first place.
Security's almost completely absent, so you'd want to keep it on an isolated network with no direct Internet access, anyway.
Personally I’d take the tech douche over the academic or the bureaucrat.
Now, the way a lot of people see it is as a set of elite smug overly-paid tech bros arrogantly trying to change every single unneeded part of life by "disrupting it".
Which usually translates into yet another stupid useless app on your smartphone to order pizza.
In the case of yet another app to order pizza...if nobody uses it or cares about it, then who gives a fuck?
“We should be hostile to people who are in the business of creating technology because they might make something nobody wants to buy” does not make sense.
Sure, maybe they’re smug and elitist idiots doing this stuff. But does it matter? And who is it that’s so interested in maligning tech as a whole? It’s their competitors in trying to accumulate wealth and power. Who, for what it’s worth, are even smugger and more elitist.
Overall, my opinion of this article is that it’s too narrowly focused and while it’s opinionated it’s also shallow. This is all typical of media now though. Ultimately this is part of a larger political context, and I think the underlying motivation for this articles and others like it is no different from Alexandra Pelosi’s “San Francisco 2.0”.