Feb
09
2010

  Public Library Brouhaha

Everyone around here is all up in arms because there is a chance that the Crozet branch of the library might close, if the board of supervisors institutes a 10% budget reduction.

I am NOT up in arms about this, depsite the fact that I use this branch of the library and think it is convenient.

First of all, we voted in a new bunch of supervisors who campaigned on cutting the budget in order to keep our taxes low. And now people are upset that they are lowering the budget? Give me a break.

Secondly, it's not like we won't be able to get books from the library. There are three libraries in Charlottesville that will still be available in the system. How many people living in Crozet never go into Charlottesville. Seriously? Just get your books on the day you're in town. Probably more than 50% of residents work in Cville and so are there every day.

The local paper published some facts about the library use-- it looks like it costs roughly $1.20 per circulating book to run the Crozet library ($158,000 to keep the library open to circulate 132,000 books = $1.20 per book). Why not let patrons who don't want to drive into Charlottesville pay $1.20 per book rental for the convenience of getting a book from Crozet? Taxes will stay low for everyone, and those who don't feel like stopping by the main libraries on the day they're in Charlottesville can pay a small convenience fee. It seems very reasonable. I would pay it. It's certainly cheaper than buying a book for $10-25 and if I don't have the time to go to the library when I'm in Cville then it makes sense to pay $1.20 to just get the book I want in Crozet.

Perhaps keep book rental free for students and seniors, and raise the regular adult rental to $1.50 per book. Or figure an average per person who actually uses the library and charge an annual subscription to rent unlimited books. If people *really* care about having a library in Crozet, they'll be willing to pay a de minimus fee to support it. But if they're just upset because of the elimination of some perceived "entitlement" to a nearby library branch when other larger more efficient libraries are readily available then of course they just want it for "free" even it means everyone has to pay higher taxes. Which they don't want, either.

The variety of things people expect the government to run astounds me. I don't think the government should be in the business of running schools (read this online book to see how education worked just fine before the government got involved), running libraries, running trash & recycling programs, running recreation centers, maintaining parks, and basically 90% of the nonsense local governments come up with. Local governments should run the courts and the police. That's probably about it. With all the money that we would save in taxes, everyone could pay for whatever individual services they wanted. I'm sure there would be for-profit parks and rec centers that would spring up, you'd pay for a subscription just like you do for gym memberships. Private lending libraries could fill whatever need there is, and already private trash companies service much of the county. The government tries to do way too much, and it winds up being inefficient at everything.

I just signed up for the paperback swap website book club. You list books you're done with, and look for books you want. You get matched up with others and you swap books through the mail. Easy, and you don't have to make a trip to any library.

I also am looking into Book Swim. It's like Netflix, but for books. A subscription library, again where you get books through the mail. Way more convenient for me than having to drive somewhere.

I've got six books on my Amazon.com "wish list" so I checked to see what's available through these sites. The public library had none of them, nor were they available through inter-library loan. The paperback book swap had none. The Book Swim had one.

So if I want to read those books, I still am basically going to have to buy them myself, whether the public library stays open or not. You can only request they purchase books that are published within the past three years or something like that, and none of the books on my list qualify.

Someone I know uses the book swap site, but I forget who was telling me about it. I like the idea of this, since it also helps to reduce book clutter in the house. While it doesn't get rid of the books like selling them or giving them away, it will allow us to get new books without adding anymore on a net basis. Since you can only get books to the extent that you send books out. You have to pay the postage to send books out, but then you don't have to pay for postage when you receive books. It works out. They say it's about $2 or so per book in postage, and if you print labels from the website with postage already on them, you don't even have to take the books to the post office even if they weigh more than 13 ounces (you do if you use regular stamps).

People think government services are "free" and that really irritates me. They are only free if you don't pay taxes! What do people think their taxes pay for? I would much rather keep more of my own income and pick and choose among private providers for what I need rather than accept the mediocre offerings of the government.

I can always dream that other libertarians will rise up and lead the reformation back to small government. The party is more active here than in a lot of places, but too many citizens are just complacent about the state of things. They are fine with their "free" services, and have no clue about how much better everything would be if run privately.

I should go to the dumb community "save the library" meeting and tell them I'm there to bury the library, not to praise it. Nah, I don't need to irritate the do-gooders. I'll just stay home and let them do the whole picket-line thing. I'd rather have lower taxes than a closer library branch.