Here’s the headline to a recent Op-Ed column that appeared in Forbes magazine, “Close the libraries and buy everyone an Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription.” What do you think?  
First, quite simply, the math doesn’t work. An Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription is set to cost $120 a year when it launches. In Wayne County, we spent $17.41 per person last year to provide library materials and services. We’d have to spend $102.59 more just to get access to what Amazon will offer. That’s just the subscription. Everyone also has to have a Kindle or some other device to use the subscription, so we’d have to buy the things that make the subscription worth anything.
The Amazon press release states that subscribers will have access to 600,000 items for that $120 a year. Well, Pennsylvania residents already have access to 6 million items in the state! The range of items you can request is vast, including academic, medical, historical, and special libraries in addition to public libraries.
Most importantly, libraries are more than books. We always have been; we always will be. The libraries that Andrew Carnegie built had gymnasiums, showers, classrooms, and meeting rooms because he wanted people to improve themselves wholly, mind and body. These days libraries have programs and groups and space where people can connect to each other, because we are social animals. Our space is neutral, assuring access to all viewpoints. Our space is non-commercial, assuring access regardless of one’s financial or educational status or ability.
Libraries these days are also technology centers. Yes, we offer e-books and e-audio that you could get through a Kindle subscription. We also offer computers and broadband because not everyone can afford those tools. We offer tech classes and tutoring because not everyone is a digital native. Technology changes so quickly, the digital divide won’t disappear, it will merely shift with time. Even those who are digital natives aren’t necessarily smart about how to protect their privacy, how to evaluate what they find online. Libraries work to improve people’s information literacy on all levels.
Speaking of technology, keep an eye on our website and our public access computers. For three weeks from August 1 through August 22 we will have links to a survey on Digital Impact. We hope everyone who uses library technology will take this survey, whether you download magazines, print a resume, read email, do research, or other things. We’re good at counting numbers (how many computer sessions in a day, a week, a year). We’re not good at knowing the impact of those sessions. The survey will help us gather that information. It will also tell us what tech resources matter most to local residents, so we know where to invest our resources.
So the Forbes Magazine column? As with most things, a glib opinion by one person is worth a deeper look before deciding to agree or disagree. Come visit a local library, and take a deeper look.
Molly Rodgers is Administrator of the Wayne Library Alliance. Visit on-line at or call your local library for information: Hawley 570-226-4620; Newfoundland 570-676-4518; Hamlin 570-689-0903; Honesdale 570-253-1220; Bethany 570-253-4349; Pleasant Mount 570-448-2573; Lakewood 570-798-2444.