Library slime important

Published 7:07 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018

When Forbes published an opinion piece in July arguing that public libraries should be replaced by Amazon, the publication was resoundingly mocked — and for good reason.

The column by Panos Mourdoukoutas was published on a Saturday and removed on a Monday, which is a good indication that the publication’s editors realized its premise was as bad as it was.

Mourdoukoutas proposed that public libraries should be replaced by brick-and-mortar Amazon stores. He said the move “would save taxpayers money and enhance the stockholder value of Amazon all in one fell swoop.”

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There’s just one problem with that: Amazon, like all companies, is in business to make money, not to serve communities. If Amazon tried to do all of the things public libraries in the United States and across the world do, it would bleed money and soon all of those things would be discontinued, leaving folks with nowhere to turn.

Amazon sells books, along with plenty of other things. It doesn’t let people borrow them for free. It’s a business.

Amazon probably wouldn’t provide computers for free use. It’s a business.

Amazon probably wouldn’t allow folks to hang out and read the books without buying. It’s a business.

Amazon probably wouldn’t take the time to freely help people looking for all sorts of information, from the best resources to use for a research paper to finding out who their City Council representative is. After all — it bears repeating — it’s a business. It doesn’t do things that don’t make it money.

Public libraries, on the other hand, exist to serve the community. They are a free source of learning, of information, of community resources, of any number of things.

The idea that they could be replaced by a for-profit business all across the United States, in the most urban environments as well as the most rural environments, is absolutely ludicrous. It’s good that Forbes recognized that, too late, but the fact that there are people who don’t understand how important libraries are is utterly exhausting.

We got to thinking about the importance of libraries after last weekend’s downtown carnival to celebrate the end of the summer reading program. Readers more than doubled the original 8,000-book goal and were rewarded with a sliming of library staff as well as a talent show, pie-eating contest and more.

Are slime and pie-eating contests part of the function of libraries? Yes. Absolutely. It motivated folks to read and learn — during the summer, no less — and that’s exactly the point.