Library rental fees take from the needy and give to the greedy
Sent to the Atlantic, July 22
Barry Greenfield suggests that public libraries charge public library patrons a "rental fee." (July 21). Much of this would have to come from low-income patrons: Research in library services shows that members of high-poverty families are more likely to use the public library than members of higher-income families, a tendency that is more pronounced when times get hard. The library is often their primary source of books and the only way they can access the internet.
If we accept Greenfield's suggestion and charge 50 cents per item, this would raise about one billion dollars per year, less than 01 percent of what we pay in taxes annually. General Electric had pre-tax earnings of 10 billion and paid no tax in 2010 (NY Times, March 25, 2010). GE's fair share would greatly exceed the total raised through rental fees.
Greenfield's plan takes from the needy and gives to the greedy, a bad idea especially when public libraries clearly help the needy become less needy.
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California
Sources: .01 percent. Total library circulation in 2008 about 2 billion items: http://www.ala.org/ala/professionalresources/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet06.cfm
US total income tax revenue = 1.5 trillion: http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/
Library use and poverty: Becker, Samantha, Michael D. Crandall, Karen E. Fisher, Bo Kinney, Carol Landry, and Anita Rocha. (2010). Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries. (IMLS-2010-RES-01). Institute of Museum and Library Services. Washington, D.C.