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Old 05-06-2012, 04:24 PM   #46
Nahgem
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Originally Posted by wizwor View Post
Worse, with the arrival of the internet and the demand for entertainment, libraries are no longer the best place to do research -- limited publications and old encyclopedias are no match for the internet.
As an academic library paraprofessional, this is bullshit. The internet does not, and cannot yet, compete with a trained, professional librarian and the myriad of resources said librarian can access on behalf of the patron -- especially since the average patron doesn't know how to properly conduct said research anyway. Not everything is online and open access; I know because it is my job to help people find access to research that they need, and the very first place I search after I've exhausted my local library catalog is the internet. You know how much of the research that people want I've actually found online? Maybe half, and I'm being generous with my estimation here. Do you know how many interlibrary loan requests I've filled for public libraries that borrow our materials because they don't own them -- materials their patrons couldn't have accessed if they hadn't asked us to lend to them? Thousands in the course of a single year, and I'm from a small library. And do you know how often I, despite years of on-the-job-experience, have to turn a question over to an actual reference librarian because I'm still not qualified enough to help? Neither do I because I do it so bloody often.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: libraries aren't just big warehouses full of book and out of date magazines, and librarians aren't just the people who stand behind the desk and hand the books to you or reshelve them when you bring them back (those people are often paraprofessionals like me or pages who might just be volunteers). Libraries are repositories of knowledge and information, in whatever format the community needs that information to be shaped. They aren't charities for just the poor and the illiterate, and the men and women who staff them provide legitimate services to the community that other people aren't trained to provide. You can't replace public libraries with schools/school libraries, because it's not just students who need them, and it's not just homework kids use libraries for. You can't replace them with the internet, because despite common adages, not everything is available on it. You can't replace library-provided internet access with wi-fi from McDonald's or Starbucks, because not everyone owns a device with which to access those networks, and nobody at McD's or Starbucks is going to have the skill to help a patron with research, or the time show them where to fill out their taxes, or how to email their resume to a prospective employer.

Yes, even at my academic library, where almost everyone on campus owns a laptop, I still get tons of non-student patrons who come use our public access terminals for things like job applications and checking their email, or reading the news, because they don't have the internet or a computer or a subscription to a newspaper. I get parents who check out movies and books for their kids and themselves because they can't afford to buy their entertainment, and because $15 for a library card that lasts two years is a way better deal than Netflix. I get patrons who call me on the phone asking how to find such-and-such business because they don't have the internet to do the search themselves, and it's not a company that's in the local phone book.

In my experience, the only people who say there is no place for libraries/librarians in our society are the people who don't know what libraries/librarians actually do.
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Old 05-06-2012, 05:48 PM   #47
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It is interesting that the article says "The tax increase would raise property tax on a $450,000 house $51.30 a year." What is interesting about that is that such a house is well over the average valuation for houses in Saint Louis County.

http://www.city-data.com/county/St._...County-MO.html
Yeah, it also doesn't make any sense mathematically. A 6c/$100 valuation would nominally lead to an increase of $270 on a $450k house. Of course there are typically property tax exemptions for homeowners that somewhat reduce the taxable value of the house - I think where I live there's a $45,000 exemption. But these numbers suggest that the assessed value would be something like 20% of the actual value. Which seems way off.
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Old 05-06-2012, 05:51 PM   #48
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Worse, with the arrival of the internet and the demand for entertainment, libraries are no longer the best place to do research -- limited publications and old encyclopedias are no match for the internet.
And the internet is no match for books.

If you want a quick two page synopsis of Napoleon's life, the internet is fine. And that's probably enough for many people. But if you are interested in deeper research, you will need actual books. As many as possible.
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Old 05-06-2012, 06:37 PM   #49
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I live in St. Louis; my mother worked as a librarian for St. Louis County for something like 35 years. It's seriously screwed up.

For one, besides a lot of management problems (which are quite lurid, she was at HQ, too, this place that they want to rebuild. Imagine a soap opera with people sleeping with each other left and right and all sorts of drama), there is a focus on things besides books - internet, as mentioned, but also DVDs. For a long time they were essentially acting as the DVD rental store for the region.

I literally have 1000s of empty DVD cases that she would bring home to me (since otherwise they would be thrown out). The vast majority were hollywood blockbusters.

Walk into a library in the system and will you find a book by a classic SF writer? Probably not. But you will find most of William Shatner's novels.

I too live in St. Louis, the libraries are flat out scary. The last time I was there is was literally packed with homeless/vagrant people sleeping and hanging out. It was so crowded that it was impossible to really do any work, that combined with strange stares, panhandling, and just rude behavior made for one very unpleasant visit.

Yes the book selection is abysmal, probably because most of the classics have been stolen or never returned.

Sadly the St. Louis libraries have become nothing more than day shelters for the homeless. I certainly would not take my kids there...
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Old 05-06-2012, 09:32 PM   #50
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Originally Posted by QuantumIguana View Post
It is interesting that the article says "The tax increase would raise property tax on a $450,000 house $51.30 a year." What is interesting about that is that such a house is well over the average valuation for houses in Saint Louis County.
I think that the author is actually speaking of property taxes relative to the city of Chesterfield and not St. Louis County when you read the sentences that follow. Chesterfield is one of the more affluent suburbs of St. Louis, and it's very likely that the median detached home price is ~$450K. St. Louis County is made up of several suburban cities surrounding St. Louis City. Chesterfield is one of these suburbs. Here is a link to the same article at the Chesterfield Patch website, which perhaps provides better context.

vhttp://chesterfield.patch.com/artic...s-it-torn-down

The St. Louis County Library is the busiest library system in the state of Missouri. It is different and separate from the St. Louis Public Library which serves the residents of St. Louis City (the downtown, urban area of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area). The population of the County (in simple terms the suburbs) is approximately 3X that of the City.

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Yeah, it also doesn't make any sense mathematically. A 6c/$100 valuation would nominally lead to an increase of $270 on a $450k house. Of course there are typically property tax exemptions for homeowners that somewhat reduce the taxable value of the house - I think where I live there's a $45,000 exemption. But these numbers suggest that the assessed value would be something like 20% of the actual value. Which seems way off.
The FAQ about the tax increase can be found here. The library's website says "The 6 cent increase would cost $17.10 per year on a $150,000 home." The author of the linked article has multiplied that $17.10 by 3 to equate to a $450,000 home. For some perspective, the FAQ explains that the library hasn't asked for a voter-approved tax increase since 1983. There is also a table that shows taxes compared to other regional library systems and with the proposed increase it would place the St Louis County Library in the middle.

http://www.slcl.org/libraries-matter/faq
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Old 05-07-2012, 06:00 PM   #51
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Of course libraries are 1) still needed and 2) the government's job to maintain.

Libraries promote literacy. It's great that some people can afford 100$ e-book readers and 500$ (or more) computers, but some people can't. A library is a simple, cost-effective way to make information available to everyone, because poor people can (and should) vote, so wise people want them to have access to information about the real world.

And poor people's kids need more than just school books to learn to read, and learn, and love learning--to go after that harder-for-them-to-get-but-vital education that might lift the next generation out of poverty.

Not to mention that it is becoming more and more common for public information to be available *only* over the internet, making libraries a twice-vital line of connection for an informed voting public.

And yeah, of course people have to pay their fair share of taxes to make that happen. People used to consider that normal, grown-up behavior, like washing the dishes. For some reason it has become fashionable in some groups of people to lie around whining you don't want to take your turn dishes.

I got no sympathy.

Whether there is a more fair way to tax is a different can of worms. But of course we pay taxes for roads, hospitals, libraries, schools, etc. In the end everyone prospers when people can get from place to place, can learn what they need to know, can get the health care they need, and so on.
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:07 PM   #52
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I think you need to sit in a library and interview the visitors. Your impoverished strawman is not spending evenings in the public library to improve himself. The patrons are checking out movies and video games for nada.
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:06 PM   #53
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"PCs and printers" -- why are aren't community centers providing this service?
Community centers? I'm not aware of them, unless you mean membership organizations which charge significant fees, like the YMCA or Jewish Y. Some of them were founded as settlement houses with a social work mission, but at least around here they are now more into athletics.

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"resumes and jobs" -- why isn't the unemployment office providing this service?
I'm sure there are government executives in the county unemployment offices who would love to expand their facilities and build branches, at great expense to the taxpayer. I would use what exists.

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we should combine public libraries, public schools, community centers, and unemployment offices into one massive government agency.
Sounds expensive and, in the case of community centers, a massive government intrusion into the private sector.

And current school security standards, which are impractical to change, forbid people from the community just walking in.

However, I will make one comment that could sound more like from your side of the street. I don't see how there is such a thing as a "design life" for a library, as claimed by the St. Louis library chief. I can't believe Andrew Carnegie's architect designed the libraries to last a century and for it then to be cheaper to tear down and rebuild than to replace the roof.
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:35 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by wizwor View Post
I think you need to sit in a library and interview the visitors. Your impoverished strawman is not spending evenings in the public library to improve himself. The patrons are checking out movies and video games for nada.

That's what I mostly see at mine.
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:05 AM   #55
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Community centers? I'm not aware of them, unless you mean membership organizations which charge significant fees, like the YMCA or Jewish Y. Some of them were founded as settlement houses with a social work mission, but at least around here they are now more into athletics.
We have them here and they're run by the local park districts.

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I'm sure there are government executives in the county unemployment offices who would love to expand their facilities and build branches, at great expense to the taxpayer. I would use what exists.
Then they need to reimburse the libraries for the expense of providing this service. Things like dedicated computers, rooms, databases, and staff help don't come cheap. This is not a function I want my library dollars spent on.

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Sounds expensive and, in the case of community centers, a massive government intrusion into the private sector.
Then don't blur the lines of responsibility.
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:11 AM   #56
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I think you need to sit in a library and interview the visitors. Your impoverished strawman is not spending evenings in the public library to improve himself. The patrons are checking out movies and video games for nada.
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Originally Posted by Harry_Y View Post
That's what I mostly see at mine.
I don't even go inside mine to know what they do; but I wouldn't be surprised if it's that way too.

Maybe cash strapped libraries should charge for DVD and game checkouts? Like $1~2 each for 2 days?

Last edited by tubemonkey; 05-08-2012 at 11:17 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:16 AM   #57
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Whether there is a more fair way to tax is a different can of worms. But of course we pay taxes for roads, hospitals, libraries, schools, etc. In the end everyone prospers when people can get from place to place, can learn what they need to know, can get the health care they need, and so on.
As long as the proper agencies are doing the jobs they were created for and not foisting some of their functions onto other agencies. I don't want limited library dollars spent on non-library functions. That eats into the budget for books.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:17 PM   #58
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It doesn't make any difference where your city or county decides to provide various services. It's just local structuring of administrative policy.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:41 PM   #59
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It doesn't make any difference where your city or county decides to provide various services. It's just local structuring of administrative policy.
It does when the book budget gets cut. Ditch the jobs database and buy more books.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:57 PM   #60
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It is just a matter of how local government is structured. If local government is structured so that some services are provided through the library rather than through some other government agency, it doesn't make a difference.
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