An Amazon on Every Corner and Other Nightmares

Amazon should open their own bookstores in all local communities. They can replace local libraries and save taxpayers lots of money, while enhancing the value of their stock.

So began an article by a college professor who decided that libraries have little value to offer anymore in light of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and book shopping companies like amazon. After public outrage over this article boiled over from Twitter and onto The Guardian‘s site (among others), Forbes deleted its article (but it is archived here). According to Fast Company, Forbes said they deleted the article because:

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.

Out of touch? I’ll let you decide. The writer is Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post in New York, and he also teaches at Columbia University. Why Forbes even published this article to begin with is a mystery. It isn’t even well-written.

Our public library hours in the City of Chicago were cut significantly years ago. Three out of four Chicago Public Schools students do not have access to a librarian. Around the same time the Forbes article was published, a place where I spent my formative years was talking about cutting library services to save taxpayers money. The loss of library services would impact all of us, but of course it would hurt economically disadvantaged people more. This Columbia University professor obviously never had to look for a job on a library computer or find a book he needed for a school report.

I walked to my library branch today reflecting on how we, the American people, use the library. As I entered my library branch, I glanced at the children’s computer stations and noted that every computer was in use by elementary school-aged kids of color. The screens displayed a range of activities from educational games to internet browsing to typing in Microsoft Word. I am pretty sure one kid was on YouTube watching those prank videos, but we have to allow kids to be kids, no? Maybe not in the world of Forbes magazine.

The adults’ stations were full of people of color typing in Microsoft Word or conducting Google searches. At the reference desk, one elderly woman was learning how to access electronic resources from her home computer as she has a difficult time leaving the house. Other people around the library were browsing books, DVDs, CDs, and magazines. Someone tacked up fliers about cultural events like plays, poetry readings, and musical performances on the public notices wall.

At the checkout desk, I picked up my book which is over $350 used and $1,115.00 new on our friend amazon. I am hardly economically disadvantaged, but I cannot afford a $1,000 book. From a selfish perspective, without my library, I would be completely bereft. This is where I obtain all my pleasure reading books and some class books. This is the place from which I pick up movies and TV shows. I stream obscure British shows through the Hoopla app. I listen to audiobooks from Overdrive. I even browse through the latest issues of my favorite magazines using the RB Digital app (no Forbes for me, though). I cannot imagine a world without libraries.

This post was originally going to be a brief one about a great extension for Google Chrome called (aptly) Library Extension. I feel obligated to put this information here, even though it is buried way down in the post. As you browse books and e-books, the Library Extension can check your library’s online catalog and display the availability of that item on the same page. When I browse to amazon or goodreads (owned by amazon), a little box informs me whether the book is available at my library as a physical book or an ebook. I have saved so much money this way.

It seems like the author of the Forbes article would wish for amazon’s stock to be “enhanced” over enhancing people’s information literacy and knowledge. What a short-sighted, selfish viewpoint. Try Library Extension and when you go to pick up your book, thank your local librarian for being amazing. He or she will appreciate it.

Thank you for reading this, possibly on a library computer.

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5 thoughts on “An Amazon on Every Corner and Other Nightmares

  1. To be honest, I thought this was a spoof then I first read it— the Forbes piece. Then I realized it was an elitist who had no clue about the social justice impact of libraries.

    Like

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