Why Libraries Still Exist

Over the weekend, I was on my phone, and in my news feed an article popped up because it was about libraries. It was this Forbes piece (links to the article through the WayBack Machine) by Panos Mourdoukoutas, who is a professor and chair of the Economics department at Long Island University, who also lectures at Columbia University occasionally (at least according to his bio on Forbes).

The piece is entitled “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money.” After I started writing this post, the piece was pulled from Forbes, but these ideas still exist out there, so I’m going to continue with this post.

The article argued that “Amazon should open their own bookstores in all local communities. They can replace local libraries and save taxpayers lots of money, while enhancing the value of their stock.”

Mourdoukoutas said that libraries aren’t free, because we pay taxes for them, and that their value as a place to host community events no longer exists. He believes Netflix and other streaming services have replaced the need for video rental services, like borrowing DVDs from the library. He also argued that Starbucks and other “third places” take over the role libraries have as a community space, where people can go online, meet up with friends, and enjoy a drink.

This isn’t everything he said, but I want to provide a counterpoint to a lot of what he wrote above, as many of these ideas have been floating around for a while.

Continue reading Why Libraries Still Exist