All digital isn’t necessarily right for all library users. Young children may fare better starting out with paper books, for example. The children in the photo above are celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and around them all you see are old-fashioned books.
But in many cases the new tech could increase access to books and other resources in a cost-effective way with librarians able to spend more time guiding and inspiring patrons.
Above all, keep in mind that ebooks are just part of the $15-$20 billion endowment plan. In a little more than 100 words, here’s a summary of the full vision.
- Encouraging self-help, pride, civic engagement, economic development and social mobility, the library endowment will help all Americans, especially in depressed areas.
- The endowment will help pay librarians in cash-strapped communities and otherwise promote electronic and traditional reading.
- It will increase the $4 per capita that public libraries can spend on books and other items—but also help finance tech-related innovations like makerspaces.
- The endowment will help pay for two separate but intertwined digital library systems (one academic, one for public and K-12 libraries).
- Funding will come from interested members of the super rich, with matching grants used to spur on local library fund-raisers.
Please note: As mentioned elsewhere, “The current people behind LibraryEndowment.org are not out to establish the endowment by themselves. Rather, we want those with far more resources—major philanthropists—to do what needs doing.”
Feedback welcome: One question of the moment is, “Should only billionaires be able to donate to the endowment?” Here’s the argument for that approach. Without this restriction, there is more chance of a national endowment draining away donations directly to local libraries and others. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related: Our plan in detail, How it will work, and a tentative breakdown of Year Five expenditures. Also see Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries, a report from the Aspen Institute’s Dialogue on Public Libraries. Deborah Fallows’s article in the Atlantic, Not Your Mother’s Library, also shows the possibilities, based on the literacy work and other efforts in Columbus, Ohio. In addition, see From Awareness to Funding: Voter Perceptions and Support of Public Libraries in 2018, a report from ALA, the Public Library Association, OCLC and Web Junction. It warns of softening public support for public libraries. The proposed endowment could create an IRS-compliant advocacy arm to help fund groups working toward increased public funding.