Monday, April 26, 2010

It is April Fools' Day again, PCWorld?

PCWorld has this solution to the current library budget crises: It's Time for Public Libraries to Get Creative [by Phil Shapiro, Apr 26, 2010 6:30 am].

Mr. Shapiro writes,
"..start using the library space as a collaborative space to make things: books, music CDs, instructional videotapes, screencasts, art, inventions, software, and so on. And then you start selling those creative things to fund the library's operations. You sell those creative products via Amazon's Create Space, Apple's iBookstore, Lulu,..."
One of my library colleagues said this was too stupid for him to respond, to which I replied, "but not too stupid for me to respond?" whereby he agreed. This is exactly stupid enough for the.effing.librarian to respond.

I don't think Phil Shapiro uses public libraries. He says, "Half of a library's operating budget could be generated by the creative output of the people who use that library... Library staff would be hired based on their creative talents..." And then he makes some semi-humorous jokes concerning dead famous people, including Paul McCartney, who could create original material for the library. But his point seems to be that libraries should create their own content to support themselves. We should write our own books. It worked in "Be Kind, Rewind" (which I didn't see), so maybe we should take all the public domain material and rewrite it and make some money? Um.. because it's a stupid idea.
"Who would buy iBooks created by people in your library? Some of the purchasers would be people right in your neighborhood..."
So in place of a tax increase to support suffering libraries, we would produce crap and force the locals to buy it. If there is one solid idea that Mr. Shapiro and I can agree upon, this one is it: using force to get money for libraries.

He also says, "Libraries also need to start forming alliances with hacker spaces." If someone doesn't buy our library crap, we will hack them into the void by taking over their Facebook pages and posting pictures of Ku Klux Klan rallies with tags like "Family reunion, 2010."

I'm sure Phil, can I call you Phil?, believes that modern libraries can behave like his allusion to the modern Renaissance and have artists in residence to produce the materials to support us, but even so, if there were kids mixing club tracks on our computers or little old ladies writing armchair detective erotica, the numbers needed to sustain all the libraries are enormous.

"Half the library's budget," Phil? I don't think your plan could replace 5% of the library's budget.

There are 16,000 public libraries in the United States, counting branches, with 144,000 paid staff. Let's say you work for a large library and your budget shortfall this year is $1 million, or even that you work in a smaller library and you need $100,000; what does this mean to you?

My math sucks, but I'm guessing you'd need to sell 17,000 items at $15 each to raise that smaller library money. And 67,000 $15 items for the large library.

I don't even know what a moderately-successful author sells, but 67,000 items seems like a lot more than most authors ever sell, let alone some crazy person, resident-author using our library computer to bang out poetry made of strings of assorted characters as his head flops onto the keyboard: ...................................... [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ (((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((( ///////////////////////////.
[note: This poem is title, "ode to spring."]

So no, Phil, I don't think we'll be using your idea to save libraries, but thanks for stopping by.