Can I add to this one little point, which is a counterintuitive thing you can do to help your local library:
Use your local library.
During the year we started Matasano our Chicago team spent about 40%-50% of our time working from the Oak Park Public Library, sometimes in meeting rooms we booked, more often at study desks. It was great. The Internet access wasn't amazing but it was totally functional and we could VPN out through it. The desks and working space were if anything better than what we have now (and we really like our office).
There were times I worried that we were being a burden, but the impression I get is that it's the opposite. What's deadly for a local library is for nobody from the community to be using it, for it to have no stakeholders from the tax base of the community. The library staff was always welcoming to us.
Your hip coffee shop on the other hand hates you with a passion it normally reserves for Scott Stapp solo albums. At the coffee shop, you take up space in a business that's driven by turnover. Someone's going to chime in here with a story about a coffee shop that truly loves the startups that park themselves at their tables and order 3 count them 3 cups of coffee in a day, but I've talked to hipster coffee shop people oh-yes-I-have and at least some of you who truly believe you're doing your coffee shop a favor are being tolerated gracefully, not welcomed, like you would be at your local library.
Libraries have an obvious role to grow into as IT hubs for their communities, now that so much of their knowledge-disseminating role has been subsumed by IT. But another related less obvious role is as a hub for local entrepreneurship; thing thing "hackerspaces" are supposed to do, but are (for so many companies) suboptimal at.
I leans heavily toward the libertarian side, but I think libraries are one of the most important social services provided by local governments. Unlike other programs, absolutely everyone can get some direct benefit from the library - no matter what age or income level.
Libraries, in my opinion, are a model of what social services should look like: universally beneficial, only practical at the community level, little chance of moral hazard or conflict of interest by any party involved (don't return a book, you lose check out privileges - the only one hurt is the perp).
Next time you think of buying a book, seriously check out your local library system.
One example of how unliberal our society has become today I think is "imagine libraries being invented today: media industry would scream piracy"! Those libraries that today experiment with e-books pay ridiculous prices per loan to do so. It's yet another angle where I think it's evident that the copyright lobby is losing perspective and society has lost the compromise struck once over copyright.
That's actually a pretty great insight. If you think of the library as a potential piracy haven, you might even consider going as far as calling them a storefront of The Pirate Bay if libraries were invented today.
What are the economics of Overdrive or the other e-book lending systems? From what I saw in googling, it's something like $10-100k/yr to be a member institution (depending on size), plus access fees of a few thousand per month, plus per-item acquisition costs (much less than physical media; maybe $1.00 for a book?).
That's expensive only because no one actually uses the online lending service, since rich/tech people value convenience, and the people for whom a $9.99 ebook is a big enough expense to warrant the inferior search, wait, etc. are probably not technology early adopters (or can't afford a $79 Kindle).
It might make sense in a school library environment, though. Or, with sufficient assistance in setting it up, audiobooks for the reading-impaired (a helpful librarian, or an audio-only UI to search/download books).
I'd like to believe that but the tone I got from the story is that we shouldn't be using our local libraries.
I'd hate the thought that I have checked out a book I could otherwise afford to buy and deprived the use to someone that could not. Or that I am using a computer to read Hackernews that an ex-convict needs to use to apply for a government program to keep his grandson alive.
Using the library deprives a slice of the pie to the very people that need it more than you. If you use the library and you can afford the alternative, then you are just as bad as the people that want to close it.
This simply isn't true. The library keeps stats on how many books are being loaned out, and when they drop, they lose an argument for funding the service. Meanwhile, the people who genuinely need the library don't need it to take books out; lending out books is a service that disproportionately helps people with the leisure time to develop a taste for reading books for pleasure.
As the son of another librarian I can also confirm this is true, and point out that just today I overheard a children's librarian lamenting that her library just discarded all their Lloyd Alexander. "They just didn't circulate," she said with evident sorrow.
So don't just use the library, use the specific bits of it that you want to keep. You are doing nobody any favors by letting it sit idle.
Agreed. I recently went to the Boston Public Library to get a specific book that was supposed to be on the shelf. I couldn't find it so a librarian put in a request to have it found and held for me. She noticed that it had been checked out 6 times in the last year, which she said was a lot, and therefore if it couldn't be found they'd make sure to order another copy. (It was http://beinggeek.com/, and it eventually turned up.)
Theres a second effect, too. When someone who has any resource in the world available to them goes to use the library, you can be damn sure they'll have standards. If libraries are only for those without other options, those who have seen what can be will not be there to demand improvement.
I recently went to the Boston Public Library to get a specific book that was supposed to be on the shelf. I couldn't find it so a librarian put in a request to have it found and held for me. She noticed that it had been checked out 6 times in the last year, which she said was a lot, and therefore if it couldn't be found they'd make sure to order another copy. (It was http://beinggeek.com/, and it eventually turned up.)
The problem I have with government provided food, shelter, and to a large extent medical care is that they are charities, only benefit a small subset of the population, while encouraging self destructive behavior in some cases (they are easy systems to exploit and are regularly exploited). This makes them expensive and inequitable. I have no problem with charity and there is a ligitimate place for it within a community, but I disagree that governments are effecient at running them.
Public education is also important, but I would hardly say its a model social program. Everyone benefits from an educated population, again, in an optimal case, there is little conflict of interest, and in general, it elevates the lives of those using the service. At the same time, it's something that could be done privately in the home or without any government intervention - and for most of history it was. It's also a bloated beauracratic mess, a representation of just how inefficient government programs can be. There are fantastic people in the trenches in schools being led by goons and politicians with little interest or knowledge about what is good for developing kids.
If one tallied up all the money spent on improving the lives of the poor in the last 50 years, I expect people would be shocked at how little improvement has actually resulted.
Unfortunately, much of this spending fails to encourage behaviors that actually move people out of poverty. If you are receiving assistance, any money you earn above a certain amount threatens your assistance. So you hide it or stay below the arbitrary limit. This is not the way to encourage honesty or industry.
How long were things done that way, despite the facts? Decades. And that's the problem with government administering charity. It doesn't look at the results and adjust its approach until outcomes improve. Its driven by political considerations. And when it does measure reality, it measures those things that make it look successful.
And why should it look honestly at outcomes? Government doesn't have to convince you to support a program. Unlike private charity, it can make you fund it. You probably don't even realize what you're funding.
i'd rather not pay for other people's benefits unless the benefit returns to me with reasonable probability and period of time. on one hand i'd like to see libraries turn profit (like 'lite' version of video rental model) or at least be self sufficient. on the other hand i want to enjoy reasonably educated population with easy access to methods for self improvement and economic mobility (both up and down) and a 'safety net' in case of uninsured unforeseen events. there's a balance between socialism and pure libertarian model but its so local and complicated and constantly evolving that i just resign myself toward the purest liberty and self responsibility and say fuck the libraries.
When I was <18, most of the books I read were from libraries. My parents aren't poor, by any measure, but they don't believe in paying for a lump of dead tree you only read once. Books can inspire. They help you improve your literacy.
Local libraries are pretty cheap. Programs to give books to poor children may not be as cost effective. Giving computers to poor children may simply result in them being sold, either by the kids or their parents.
Commercial libraries (proprietary libraries) have existed. They typically catered to the kind of people who paid a lot for membership - upper middle class professionals. If we relied on commercial public libraries today, they would be stacked with O'Reilly's books, Tolkien, popular economics, management books, and the like.
I wouldn't mind having a paid membership in a library that carries O'Reilly's books and like. I would also probably try to convince my company to have one (and that would mean much bigger budget there). Most of such books are needed only for a relatively short periods of time and then sit there gathering dust for years. The library would be ideal for such things.
I don't say this would necessarily work, there are many problems with this idea that would need to be resolved, but on the face of it I don't see why it couldn't work.
yes. i think the warm fuzzy feeling is how the body internally represents the vague and unspecific expectation of 'social' reward from doing something that benefits others
the sense of something being a 'good deed' comes from expecting harmony and general social cooperation (reciprocity) and since the cause effect is so disconnected and complex - it's too difficult to grasp with reason (for some people) and just has to be felt in this way. (?)
also the neurological 'mirroring' and empathy
.. anyways. people who want and use the library should pay for it. people who don't should not pay. isn't this fair?
neighbourhood watch and locally funded andor volunteer police, vigilanteesm & personal responsibility
fire insurance includes fire department service. you can go cheap and risk burning down but it's more likely that decent friendly neighbours will gladly cover yours if you can't. or you can move to more affordable housing within your means
health insurance with discounts for taking care of yourself
competition between doctors and between pharmaceuticals driving innovation, skills and real results forward while driving prices down.
would you rather get chemo for pennies while someone else can get immortality for millions or would you rather pay millions for chemo equally with everyone else
private or shared roads according to free will and common mutual interest
i don't want just anyone to come in to my house as they please. or my driveway, or if my driveway is very long = my road
i'm responsible for my property amd my own actions. i don't want to tell you what to do and i don't want your money. we can agree to exchange things for mutual benefit and i will do everything i can to keep to agreed terms - staking my word and reputation
there is nothing wrong with public libraries or charity regardless if selfish or for common good as long as it's funded with free will instead of threat of tax prison
crappy mismanaged unused library should go broke while the good library can pay for itself with fees and donations
i'm puzzled and somewhat amused with the downvotes because i'm aiming for maximum honesty and truth. the market organises to elevate the best and raise standards for all others - it's like a force of nature, whereas government seems to systematically mismanage libraries into mediocre grey soulless underused smelly wastelands.
Here's essentially the thought process behind the downvotes:
You: "the market organises to elevate the best and raise standards for all others"
Everybody else: "And I'm the Queen of England."
"The market" is not some intelligent, charitable entity. It's an abstraction employed to talk about how participating entities allocate their resources. It categorically does not help everyone. In fact, in many cases it can hurt everyone (the most famous example is the tragedy of the commons, but that's hardly the only way markets can go bad). Read the OP: What is the market going to do for that guy with no money?
From your comments so far, it seems like you believe he should just curl up and die in the cold. And most people don't believe that's a good answer at all.
Ah, the old "criminals will rob you if you don't consent to have the government take your money to hand out to them" argument. Often peddled by those who also believe criminals are not responsible for their actions, they're just oppressed/had a bad childhood/whatever.
I'm fine with universal (modulo pacifists and those not capable of handling a gun) individual gun ownership. Combined with anything resembling rule of law, in that case armed robbery quickly drops off the list of "what it takes to survive", because it no longer results in long survival. The criminals will always be outnumbered.
But let's get back to the real topic. Fact is, I like libraries. I think they're very positive for everyone in many ways, in particular for being an intellectually-oriented gathering place.
New to these particular arguments, so your first sentence was perspective adding. Should have realized though that the strong libertarian bent to HN would make a lot of arguments old.
That said: In my defence, I'm neither for nor against the topic, and wasn't making the arguments you suggested I was. I was alluding to large groups of criminals overwhelming or out-gunning paid protection at some point of the scale.
As you said, lets get back to the real topic - libraries are great. Although it did seem like computer education and literacy was one of the major draws - perhaps people here could help by helping an NGO which provided volunteers to help people fill forms up or give them computer education?
Your outline of the thought process behind Mikey7 downvotes is a lucid, intelligent argument with his belief about "the market." And you're saying this is the reason you vote to have him silenced?
I kind of think maybe a better reason might be because a commenter engages in trolling or some other behavior that's out of bounds, which might very well be the case here with Mikey7. But I appreciate having this thought process behind downvotes as they are actually used ("I disagree with what you say ... Downvote for you!") so clearly stated.
If you think "You are making wild and horrible claims without any substantiating evidence" is the same thing as "I disagree with you," I don't know what to say but that you're wrong. My objection is that he appears to be mindlessly spouting dogma, and a dangerous one at that. If he made a cogent argument that disagreed with my beliefs, that would be one thing, but his comments are the libertarian equivalent of "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."
Firstly, the downvotes are a recent manifestation of creeping groupthink. They're disheartening, but they're actually a good example in this particular instance as an illustration that people as a whole, even in places where you'd expect them to be, aren't so smart. It's much easier to have a gut reaction to a position and grunt a downvote out than actually engage in reasoned discussion and THINK about it.
Even speaking as an agorist, your faith in the market is a little extreme. It certainly has some useful and beneficial efficiencies to be sure, but believing that it will simply elevate the best and create a rising tide that will raise all standards is a little naive I think with regards to what we see in the world where markets reign.
Assuming humans are perfectly rational agents with equal information it works, but that's not how humans really are. Humans are dumb, panicky, emotional animals, and the difference between the most incompetent of them and say cows are not as wide as our politically correct institutions would like to force us to believe.
You would do well, even in an ancap society, to voluntarily donate to charities that pursued socially beneficial objectives so that you reaped the benefits of their actions. This is pretty much the ancap response to tragedy of the commons. Vaccination and libraries are not a bad example of where this makes sense imho. There's nothing strictly contrary to ancap doctrine to point out that choosing not to clean your proverbial home will result in you living in a mess, so you might want to do that occasionally.
It is not enough to point out that simply because states provably fail, markets are perfectly efficient.
That really is not true. I appreciated the post because it gave me a perspective on what life is like for people who aren't like me; it has nothing to do with politics unless you want to start arguing about politics.
I think it's more that his arguments didn't seem to have considered the situation he was addressing at all. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, but he provided no evidence or reasoning at all. His comments were not particularly more substantial than "I like pizza," though their implications were a lot more harmful. I understand that you don't like to see unpopular opinions downvoted, but at the same time, vapid comments should not be protected just because they express an unpopular opinion.
It's not just this instance, I've noticed in an increasingly broad variety of topics that when something goes against the accepted groupthink it is prone to silent downvoting. Even in the absence of ad homs, whining in general, etc.
Also you'd be pretty hard pressed to say that this question isn't expressly relevant to the original article being discussed, and isn't overtly political in the sense that noone is agitating for votes or any such thing.
I was muzzled for arguing that Craigslist middlemen are bad. Then again I did say some things so out-of-bounds they should not be heard:
"Do buyers and sellers go to this man the way people go to real estate agents for their services? What would Craigslist buyers and sellers think of what he does if they knew about it? Respectfully, I think they would strongly prefer he weren't interfering."
That's exactly what I'm talking about, and the main comment I made that was at +4 when I went to bed last night is now at just +1 so I take it as fairly obvious that this people trying to muzzle well presented / supported positions that they happen to disagree with is really going on. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3596880 also was in a tug of war between 0 and +5 for a few days but has settled now on +4.
Two in just the past hour with a quick look at recent comments + one 40 days ago where I noticed it first started happening;
This doesn't deserve downvotes. Mickey7 has described (albeit without capital letters) a common viewpoint, one that deserves to be considered when discussing this issue.
The upvote/downvote system is not intended to be a popularity contest, it's intended to indicate whether the post contributes to the conversation. Even if you find Mickey7's viewpoint abhorrent, you ought to be giving him a +1 to recognize that it's a relevant perspective -- even if that's just so that you can reply and show why this perspective is flawed.
I'd upvote this many times, if I could. I got in the habit of doing several hours of work a week at the library while my kids were doing various activities, and I loved it. At first, I did have that "gee, am I just taking space" moment, but just as Thomas points out, this is actually what libraries are for--they provide knowledge services (that is, books and internet access) for free.
I'd also recommend that if you do use your local library, support it, too. I don't necessarily mean monetarily (which we do, via, uh, late fees), but if someone in power is considering cutting funding, tell them they really shouldn't do that.
Totally forgot about kids! We took our kids to the library all the time when we were working out of it. Now we have nice offices downtown and our kids get to the library... never. Yet another benefit of working from the local library at least some of the time.
Growning up I watched as the little libraries around town closed down and the main branch expended. We only went to the main branch when we could get a ride. Recently I read about the ratio of library patrons was proportional to the ability to walk to the library. It would be interesting to know if consolidating libraries was a bigger movement than the towns I happened to live in, but a big change that occurred in the 90's across the country or something.
I would LOVE to work out of my local library, unfortunately, here in Austin libraries have the policy that meeting rooms etc. are only for non-profit groups that are open to the public. No private meetings, no "open to the public meetings" that are run by for-profit companies. I suppose your garage startup could probably _get away with_ meeting there, but it's a big no-no.
The private meeting rooms were nice, but most of the time we just worked from the study desks. Even when we had the private rooms, there was always a feeling of time pressure in them. You might need private space a lot less than you think you do.
Yea, the private rooms at my local library are made almost obsolete by the open study tables and desks there. For one, you don't have to worry about the constant time restrictions, and the extra ventilation doesn't hurt either.
I did give this a try a while back, as an alternative to local coffee shops. Baristas seem friendly most of the time. I try to buy something every hour or two that I'm there, and respectfully leave after a while if the place is full.
Quite honestly, I didn't enjoy spending time at my local library. The atmosphere was depressing. The people running the place seemed unfriendly. They were used to dealing with people coming in and trying to hide in the bathroom during closing in order to stay the night, and things like that.
There was no good place nearby to get food or drinks. Internet access was slower, more inconvenient and more restrictive than most coffee shops. There didn't seem to be a community of people hanging out working on or talking about interesting things.
If libraries created an inviting place to hang out, I would gladly give them another try. I'm more than willing to buy food and drinks at a markup if they're offered. I consider that a good trade: I get sustenance to keep me concentrating for extended periods of time, and they get some compensation for use of the space and resources.
A friend of Mine just graduated with a Degree in Literature and we talk about the futures of libraries all the time. We often ask what would happen if libraries opened up a small coffee shop/stand inside of them? With enough "marketing" would people go to libraries instead?
I've seen quite a few that execute the coffee shop idea nicely!
The main branch of the Ottawa Public Library has a nice little coffee/food shop in the middle of its main floor.
I've also visited two public libraries in smaller cities north of Toronto recently, and they also have similar shops. I think it is a great idea, as I will sometimes go to the library to work for the day and don't even have to leave the building for lunch.
Of the 4 library systems I am most familiar with around here:
* One in a city of 36K people doesn't have refreshments, but is located on a street with lots of restaurants and at least 3 coffee shops within a block or 2.
* One in a city of ~56K people has a coffee kiosk under a canopy/tent alongside the library (this is Southern California, weather's not too big an issue).
* The central library in a city of ~140K has a coffee shop in a sheltered part of a patio/courtyard. I don't think the branch libraries have coffee.
* Los Angeles Central library has 2 restaurants inside the main library building (Panda Express, and a sandwich counter), and a pricier white-tablecloth restaurant in the garden in front of the building. I don't know about the branch libraries.
Indianapolis Central Library is a beautiful facility (it better be, for what we spent on it) with dozens of computers throughout and a coffee bar on the first floor. There's usually a line for both. It's great. It's a setup that works there. My local branch, on the other hand, has a strict no food and drink policy. That's too bad, but you don't need marketing if you have computers. People need internet access and they will max out their library computer hours regardless.
To sliverstorm's point, the Philly-style pretzel shop across the street from my branch does a nice business with kids after school (and me any time of the week), and I long for a nice coffee shop in the adjacent vacant space.
What you do is co-opt a coffee stand to open shop right outside your front door, or in a secluded corner. That way people can get food and stay longer, but the library doesn't just turn into a coffee shop with a few books.
I've seen a few libraries with the just-outside-the-door model, and a Borders with a small Peet's upstairs. Both were well-executed.
The Cameron Village library (Raleigh, NC) has a coffee shop. The best info I could find is from their Facebook page :
> Has it been a while since you been to a library? Cameron Village Regional Library is the only library in Wake County that offers coffee bar service to its patrons! Come visit your public library and browse the stacks with a beverage in hand. Or just come and meet up with a friend and catch up before heading over to the shops and events at Cameron Village.
In DC we're currently trying to convince the library system to open up their meeting spaces for entrepreneurship / tech meetups. If it works, hopefully it could be replicated to other cities and be a positive part of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Yes. Circulation and computer usage stats keep the branches open and drive staffing budgets (along with political skill of management, of course). Staff may be overworked and grumpy, but they do derive immense satisfaction and their livelihood from helping patrons find what they need and seeing them come through the doors for any reason other than to complain. When my wife worked at a busy little branch in Oakland, all of these things were frequent topics of dinner conversation.
I'm not sure if this counts in the same way, but I'm a huge user of inter-library loan; large city systems HAVE the obscure computing and other books I want to read, but there's no way each little branch can.