Libraries make electonic return to philanthropic roots


An interesting story from the Associated Press and appearing on Globe Technology provides a description of a successful program by the Oakland Public Library to obtain more books through donations by using Amazon's gift registry.

The program has been reasonably successful so far (they claim 200 of 400 books placed on the list have been purchased), and is an interesting experiment in small-scale philanthropy towards public libraries.

Although the article quotes members of the American Library Association asserting that as a "cornerstone of democracy" free access to public libraries "shouldn't be funded by private donations", they seem to be forgetting that many of the public libraries in this country were originally funded by these very methods. Mr. Carnegie at least partially funded over 2500 libraries in his lifetime, and although most of them were funded in a way that required local participation to sustain the gifts, the philanthropic nature of the library has strong roots.

Now, I'm not advocating that we drop the public funding of libraries. Quite to the contrary, I'm a supporter of funding of libraries for not only unfettered access to books, but also as access points for other information resources (such as the internet). However, I think that encouraging individuals to give to their local libraries (and possibly libraries further afield) by giving books is a fantastic idea.

Perhaps it will be a way to get some of those books that local governments are hesitant to purchase on to the shelves.