Saturday, September 7, 2013

Libraries that charged fees would lose ‘public’ status

In the Medford Mail Tribune, Anne Guevara argues that public libraries that charge user fees would cease to be public libraries and would lose far more than they would stand to gain in user fee revenue.
“Philosophically, the basic premise of a public library is that it is free for all, open to the public, maintained for public use and is supported with public funds. Of course, we know it is not really free; it is supported with our tax dollars but for the common good, which means everyone. So financially, for purposes of the discussion here, citizens of Jackson County need to understand what the public library stands to lose if it charges a simple user fee.”
According to Guevara, Jackson County Library Services receives state and federal funding because its libraries are public.
“The Babies and Wobblers program, early literacy programming and part of summer reading is funded by per-capita funding in the form of the Ready2Read grant administered by the Oregon State Library. Federal grants, including funding from the Library Services and Technology Act, which are also administered by the Oregon State Library, provide resources to fund over 30 online library databases from, available 24/7 if you have a library card and computer. Reduced e-rate helps provide free wi-fi in all 15 branches of Jackson County Libraries. Public library status also makes JCLS eligible to join consortiums such as the Oregon Digital Library Consortium that offers access to over 41,000 downloadable eBooks and audiobooks through its membership in Library2Go. Jackson County Library Services would be disqualified from receiving these and other funds if the library charged a user fee.”
If you, like me, had wondered about this option for funding Jackson County libraries, Guevara’s commentary offers valuable insight into the implications of “public” status.

From her accompanying biography: Guevara worked as a children’s librarian, reference librarian, coordinator of young adult services and head of branches for Jackson County Library Services from 1985 until her retirement in 2010. Guevara now volunteers as a board member of The Friends of the Medford Library.

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