Is it possible for a public library to make money?
Yet, David Streitfield reports in the New York Times that a private company in Maryland, called Library Systems & Services, has taken over public libraries in ailing cities in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas, growing into the country's fifth-largest library system.
Their aim is to make a profit themselves, while at the same time removing a financial burden from the city. The question is, how are they going to do it?
The librarians, for obvious reasons, are worried. The company asserts that libraries are often creaky antiquated organizations with inefficient service. "Our" librarians are going to be made to work, they aver -- which presumably means that the era of the librarian who becomes so interested in your research project that s/he devotes thought and time to providing active help is over. There just won't be time for that kind of thing. There are also dire suspicions that they are going to "clean out" under-used material.
Patrons are even more alarmed, to the extent of writing petitions. Publicly owned libraries are a cornerstone of democracy, they say. Whether they will succeed in fighting the juggernaut remains to be seen.