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July 2018, Week 4

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 		 [ Forbes published piece Saturday showing how far privatization is
being pushed - nationalize public libraries, along with public schools
and the post office. After public backlash, two days later, Forbes
took the story down.] [https://portside.org/] 

 FORBES DELETED A DEEPLY MISINFORMED OP-ED ARGUING AMAZON SHOULD
REPLACE LIBRARIES   [https://portside.org/node/17766] 

 

 Thu-Huong Ha 
 July 23, 2018
Quartz
[https://qz.com/1334123/forbes-deleted-an-op-ed-arguing-that-amazon-should-replace-libraries/]


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 _ Forbes published piece Saturday showing how far privatization is
being pushed - nationalize public libraries, along with public schools
and the post office. After public backlash, two days later, Forbes
took the story down. _ 

 , Quartz 

 

On Saturday morning Forbes published an opinion piece
[https://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2018/07/21/amazon-should-replace-local-libraries-to-save-taxpayers-money/#2172ed860a81] by
LIU Post economist Panos Mourdoukoutas with the headline “Amazon
Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money.” It quickly
received enthusiastic backlash from actual American libraries and
their communities.

As of around 10am US eastern time this morning, the story had nearly
200,000 views, according to a counter on the page. As of 11am, though,
the story’s URL has been down.

“Forbes advocates spirited dialogue on a range of topics, including
those that often take a contrarian view,” a Forbes spokesperson says
in a statement. “Libraries play an important role in our society.
This article was outside of this contributor’s specific area of
expertise, and has since been removed.”

In his article, Mourdoukoutas argued that local libraries are no
longer useful. If libraries closed, he wrote, taxpayers would save
money, and Amazon could open bookstores to provide those communities
with physical books.

“[Libraries] don’t have the same value they used to,” the
article argued. The functions of the library, Mourdoukoutas said, have
been replaced: community and wifi are now provided by Starbucks; video
rentals by Netflix and Amazon Prime; and books by Amazon.

“Technology has turned physical books into collector’s items,
effectively eliminating the need for library borrowing services,”
Mourdoukoutas wrote, despite the fact that print book sales from
traditional publishing houses are steady
[https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/75760-print-sales-up-again-in-2017.html].
Mourdoukoutas also made the unsubstantiated claim that “some people
have started using their loyalty card at Starbucks more than they use
their library card.”

As critics have pointed out, the communities that would be hardest hit
by libraries closing would be the underprivileged. Libraries provide
free computers and internet access for students and people who can’t
afford them at home. They also provide free ESL and reading classes;
services for the elderly, college hopefuls, and entrepreneurs; and
meals for kids at story time.

“The communities that would be affected the most would likely be
low-income people, immigrants, and, really, the most marginalized
among us,” says Paul Guequierre, director of communications for the
Urban Libraries Council, a membership organization for North American
public libraries. “[People] don’t have to buy a cup of coffee at
the library,” he added.

Public benefit aside, would cutting public libraries save taxpayers a
significant amount? The majority of a public library’s funding comes
from state and local governments, not federal. According to a report
[http://olc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Library-Levy-Report-Dec-2017.pdf](pdf)
from the Ohio Library Council published last year, the state’s
average library levy from 2013 to 2017 was 1.39 mills, a rate used in
taxes that means $1.39 for every $1,000 in assessed property
value. That’s around 2.5%
[https://www.tax.ohio.gov/Portals/0/tax_analysis/tax_data_series/all_property_taxes/pr6/PR6CY17.pdf] (pdf)
of Ohio’s average property tax rate, the eighth highest in the
country last year. For the average homeowner in the state, that would
have come to around $65 last year
[https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2017/04/16/comparing-average-property-taxes-all-50-states-and-dc/100314754/].

Across the country, if public libraries were to be cut and all funding
were to be divided up among Americans, each person would get $36 back,
says Richard Auxier, a researcher at the Tax Policy Center think tank.

On Twitter, Mourdoukoutas wrote, “Let me clarify something. Local
libraries aren’t free. Home owners must pay a local library tax. My
bill is $495/year.” Writer Kashana Cauley responded to Mourdoukoutas
in a tweet with 14,000 likes at time of writing, “Let me clarify
something. I don’t want poor and working class people to read
books.”

_[Thu-Huong Ha writes about books and culture for Quartz. She's also
an executive producer of the annual TEDxNewYork conference and the
author of the YA novel Hail Caesar. Previously she was the context
editor at TED and a Fulbright grantee in Aksaray, Turkey.]_

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