UPDATE: July 23, 2018, 1:48 p.m. EDT As of Monday afternoon, it appears as if the story has been pulled from Forbes without a note or any other reason. The story has also been removed from Mourdoukoutas’ author page. I’ve reached out to Forbes for details but, for now, you can read a cached version of the story here and an updated version that was briefly on the site is here (via Wonkette).
There are bad takes, and then there’s the take by Forbes contributor Panos Mourdoukoutas (who also serves as Chair of the Department of Economics at Long Island University) that local libraries should be replaced by Amazon book stores.
Among the reasons Mourdoukoutas offers are: libraries don’t have as many public events as they used to because of school auditoriums; people go to places like Starbucks to hang out and work and read now instead of their library; and because technology makes physical books obsolete.
These arguments are easy to rebut. School auditoriums are hardly new and libraries remain bedrocks of local communities, Starbucks locations don’t offer free loans of books, and libraries all over the country have amassed huge ebook collections, meaning you can still check out books in whatever format you want for free, which is way cheaper than any price on Amazon.
Also, since Mourdoukoutas brings up the demise of video rental places for some reason, it’s worth pointing out that plenty of libraries now offer streaming audio and video services. And many larger libraries, including New York City and Chicago, loan you free museum passes using your library card, proving they’re still mighty useful to the community.
It’s a poorly written and barely defended take. The one cogent argument Mourdoukoutas does make is that such a move would save residents in tax dollars and would help Amazon stock holders. Because apparently being the richest man in modern history isn’t enough for Jeff Bezos and harming lower-income communities where residents rely on libraries as their primary source for books and more is totally fine.
Bad takes aside, it seems a majority of Americans still consider the library vital to their community, with that being particularly true among millennials. A 2017 report by the Ohio Library Council found that from 2013 to November 2017, Ohio voters approved 162 out of 172 (94.2%) levy increase proposals to benefit their local libraries. And there are plenty of other examples of such approvals, at both state and local levels.
Twitter smelled Mourdoukoutas’ bullshit and was happy to push back, starting with an actual library.
Historically those with power overtly protected their position by keeping oppressed communities illiterate. This idea is a modern reincarnation. Libraries serve POC, the poor, etc. They are where people apply for citizenship, register to vote, access social programs. https://t.co/4BGS3yhorz
— Sofia Quintero (@sofiaquintero) July 22, 2018
I worked at a library. They are a community-facing center of PUBLIC GOOD, bridging the people with information and entertainment. Librarians are BOOK WIZARDS and reference librarians are INFOSORCERERS and we must protect libraries as a precious resource.
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 22, 2018
A leading indicator for me that you’re probably a real asshole is whether you think libraries should be shut down and/or replaced by corporate retail outlets.
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) July 22, 2018
The elitist ignorance here is staggering.
Public libraries are refuge – from, among many other things, the spread of corporate monolith advocated in this piece.
Please let the response be a tripling down of commitment to preserve free community spaces. https://t.co/IZbGmPGFHn
— Peter Hartlaub (@peterhartlaub) July 22, 2018
TL;DR: this take was very bad and libraries are very good. Support and patronize your local library today.