‘Twaddle’: librarians respond to suggestion Amazon should replace libraries

Piece in Forbes magazine said libraries dont have the same value they used to and cost taxpayers too much

Librarians are in uproar after an article in Forbes magazine proposed replacing all public libraries in the US with Amazon bookstores.

Panos Mourdoukoutas, a professor of economics at LIU Post in New York, wrote for Forbes that libraries dont have the same value they used to and should be replaced permanently by Amazon book shops.

At the core, Amazon has provided something better than a local library without the tax fees. This is why Amazon should replace local libraries, wrote Mourdoukouta. The move would save taxpayers money and enhance the stockholder value of Amazon all in one fell swoop.

Librarians and library users have responded furiously, arguing that libraries provide services that could never be matched by a private company, that they are key places for those who are disenfranchised to use services, and represent value for money for the taxpayer.

No offense to yall at Forbes, but a little research would prevent you from publishing this kind of twaddle, wrote the Harris County Public Library in Texas in a response to the article on Facebook.

Perhaps, in the future, you could ask a librarian for help. Study after study has shown that public libraries more than pay for themselves. In Texas, for example, for every $1 of taxpayer money spent on public libraries, public libraries return $4.64 to the economy.

Selena Terrazas (@terrazas_selena)

My Los Angeles Public Library card allows me access to all you mentioned and more. Today we offered a genealogy workshop, indigenous writers conference, puppet show, tai chi class and travel craft in one location. My cost in taxes? 37 CENTS.

July 22, 2018

mcmillen (@mcmillen)

Abraham Lincoln educated himself at a library. So did Malcolm X. Scientists, historians, researchers of all types depend on libraries. Compared to the funding that libraries receive, the payoff they provide is huge. You can’t know which kid will go on to change the world. /end

July 22, 2018

Gwen C. Katz (@gwenckatz)

Cost to individually buy the six books I have on hold this week: $70

Amount the Altadena Library Special Parcel Tax cost me this week: 75

Someone help me budget this, I’m not the chair of an economics department.

July 21, 2018

The San Francisco public library speculated that Forbes might have an ulterior motive for the story.

SF Public Library (@SFPublicLibrary)

Maybe @Forbes doesnt like that you can download their magazine free with your #SF library card. https://t.co/vqQk1BDMZE

July 22, 2018

Librarians across the nation sprang to the defence of libraries, saying they offer services that a private company like Amazon could not hope to match. In a series of tweets, Amanda Oliver, who has been a librarian in Washington DC for the last seven years, said the value of libraries could be seen in the services provided to a huge range of people.

Its librarians helping people fill out free housing forms and visa forms and all things related to basic human needs, wrote Oliver. Its shelter when its freezing or raining or scorching hot. Its access to free newspapers and conversation. Its so much for so many.

Amanda Oliver (@aelaineo)

Visit your local library for one day. Sit and watch who comes in to use the services its not just people checking out free books. Its one of few places in our society where the underserved can be treated with dignity and respect. Its WiFi. Its translators. Its kindness.

July 22, 2018

Libraries actually provide something for everyone, no exclusions. Literally no one is excluded from access to the library! Its for everyone. Prisoners, people with disabilities, elderly, the young, the rich, the poor, etc.

This country has such a massive problem with ignoring its most needy. And the first things we want to do away with or make cuts to always seem to be the institutions that serve them. What a privilege to think libraries are just for books.

Erbear (@erberriez)

You know what I have done in a library? Received free advice on starting a small business. Learned how to use a 3d printer. Attended a coding group. (Actually been to various types of group meetings.) Gone to various talks. Taught people to knit.

July 23, 2018

mcmillen (@mcmillen)

Another thing re the Forbes article on libraries: I learned to program computers from a book at my local library in Minnesota. My high school didn’t have a CS class (or computers, really). Ended up with a BS and PhD in CS and 9 years at Google, all because of my local library.

July 22, 2018

Librarians also took issue with the argument that libraries were no longer needed as venues for public events or as places for people to read, work and socialise because school auditoriums or coffee shops like Starbucks were now being used for those purposes.

Did you know that school auditoriums arent easy to rent (or cheap)? … Thanks for having absolutely no idea how libraries work in 2018, wrote one librarian. Even Dictionary.com got in on the act.

Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom)

Library. A room, set of rooms, or building where books may be read or borrowed.

E.g. A Forbes writer says Amazon should replace the local library. https://t.co/MkLwScxdAR https://t.co/mEaof5AGUs

July 22, 2018

As one Twitter user wrote, watching the librarians savage the article online: Damn library twitter rolls hard.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jul/23/twaddle-librarians-respond-to-suggestion-amazon-should-replace-libraries

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