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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Point: Libraries Should Be Run Like Businesses

Now that we’ve all explored how the Annoyed Librarian has managed to make a mockery of the extremely important institution known as the peer-reviewed journal, let’s move on to other targets.

I often notice in the comments section what I assume are the business librarians amongst us making the oft heard complaint that libraries are not run more like businesses, usually followed by the prediction that if libraries don’t become more like businesses, they will become extinct!

So if libraries were run more like businesses, what would we see happening?

AT WILL EMPLOYMENT

This is always a good one. I realize a lot of librarians have at-will employment right now, but plenty others have the protections of civil service contracts, unionization, tenure, etc. However, if we got rid of all those selfish employment protections, then libraries could just fire all of their librarians whenever they experienced a "circulation downturn" and then hire them back when the libraries were doing more business, probably as consultants so the librarians could do the exact same job as before, only at twice the pay with no benefits. That seems like a winning strategy.

BONUSES

Funny all those businessy librarians never talk about bonuses, but when it comes to this part of acting like a business, I’m all for it! Obviously it would require some thought about the proper method used to allocate bonuses, but as in businesses they’d be tied to performance in some way. Would it be the performance of the whole library? Thus, if the overall statistics of use or whatever were higher than the previous year, would everyone get a bonus? Or perhaps it should be more individual. Reference librarians could get bonuses for exceeding their quota of questions answered, and cataloggers for exceeding their quota of items cataloged. This might create some perverse incentives, inasmuch as reference librarians would undoubtedly let quantity of answers become more important than quality, but then again that’s just how businesses do it, which is why sales people are happy to sell you shoddy products or services you don’t need as long as they make their numbers. Come to think of it, this is probably how most reference librarians do it already, so why not get paid more for it.

TIPS

Tips are like bonuses for hourly workers. All those salaried librarians should expect bonuses, but all the hourly wage workers should expect tips, as is often the case with service workers. We could put up tip jars at the circulation and reference desks. Perhaps after fulfulling a particularly difficult information need, librarians could hold out their hand while looking off into the distance and coughing expectantly.

ADVERTISING AND MARKETING

Some librarians just love this kind of thing. Libraries could create entire advertising and marketing departments staffed with people who do absolutely nothing useful within the organization but who like to tell lies while enjoying large expense accounts – just like real businesses! It takes money to make money, as they say, and you need a whole army of marketeers to discover that people want to check out books and videos and CDs and such at their library, and another army of advertisers to let the people know libraries have this stuff. These would probably be the most attractive jobs in libraries, because no one in them would have to do any actual library work. They could just go to marketing seminars and have expensive lunches.

THREE MARTINI LUNCHES

Speaking of expensive lunches, you didn’t think I’d leave this one out, did you? I know they’re not as popular since the late seventies when that teetotaling peanut farmer in the White House criticized three martini lunches and thus caused a temporary decline in the popularity of the drink H.L. Mencken considered America’s only creation as perfect as a sonnet. But I think it’s time to bring them back to businesses, libraries, and the world! You can all enjoy the same warm glow I feel every afternoon after sampling Chip’s mixological magic with my LJ-catered luncheon.

And finally,

GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS

As we see around us, what the real businesses are doing these days is turning to the government for money. Iinvestment banks, mortgage lendors, now even auto manufacturers are smacking their lips in anticipation of plunging their laissez-faire, underregulated snouts as deeply into the public trough as they can. Money from the government. Protecting American jobs that don’t seem justified from a free market perspective. Saving American industries that are supposedly "too big to fail." Looks like these businesses are starting to learn from libraries. And if anything is "too big to fail," it’s the American library! Which would be worse for America? The demise of GM or the demise of American libraries? With the right New New Deal, those unemployed auto workers can get jobs working in libraries, perhaps repairing bookmobiles. If GM doesn’t run itself at the public expense like the library, it might become extinct!

Librarians should indeed start taking lessons from "business." We should start giving ourselves large bonuses and much higher salaries. We should stop trying to provide a decent and worthwhile public service and instead think only of our well being and profit. Then, when this doesn’t work out, we go to the Congress and claim libraries are just too big to fail, and we need $700 billion for them to stay in operation. Right now we’ve been doing it completely the wrong way. Libraries have been trying to provide worthwhile public services on a shoestring. This is not how businesses operate. It’s time we learned our lesson.

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Comments

  1. soren faust says:

    I’m a business librarian and don’t think the library should become a business or be run like a business. The library is a unique institution with a pre-specified mission; it is not Mom & Pop’s Book Emporium. Think about it this way: businesses that want to stay competitive are continually trying to differentiate themselves from their competitors. This means having to do whatever it takes. Businesses will drop a non-profitable division or subsidiary of their corporation quicker than concrete if it means positively affecting the bottom line—and this is not a bad thing—for a business. However, the implications for a library following this type of model are serious. If the library becomes just another business you can expect it to do what other businesses do, i.e. sell lollipops and make funny noises if that is what it takes to generate revenue.

  2. Frogger says:

    I realize your whole schtick is hyperbole, but you ought to at least strive for some level of accuracy. 90% of businesses in America don’t have the qualities that you describe (bonuses, tips, drinking at lunch, government bailouts, etc.). Just because the Wall Street firms get the headlines doesn’t mean that they are typical businesses.

    The point that you are missing is the concept of a business model. When a business if forced to perform well or disappear, there is real motivation to excel. Libraries don’t have this motivation because they are run on the nonprofit model, which creates laziness, apathy, lack of ambition, etc.

  3. ManJazz says:

    Who needs an advertising department when you have all those snazzy celeb READ posters from the ALA?

  4. Stuffy Corporate Type says:

    You can tell AL has never ventured far from the ivory tower.

    Sad.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Brilliant. Absolutely Brilliant.

  6. AL says:

    Not sad at all. The ivory tower is a lovely place to be. So smooth and calm, above the cares of the world.

  7. soren faust says:

    Frogger, if assuming that the library has never been run according to a business model and has survived for as long as it has, then there must be something we’re missing. Businesses and Libraries have been co-existing for a long time. Why, all of the sudden, ought the library adopt a business model? Is this just another one of many fashionable management ideas that come and go? I just got through weeding many of those fly-by-night books from the collection.

    At the same time, you’re right. The library does not have the same incentive to be innovative and current and laziness is definetely a problem; however, a different kind of incentive must be instituted. There should be nothing wrong with performance evaluation and the high probability of being fired for lack of initative. There should be nothing wrong libraries being held to high standards lest they be closed. But, the library itself as the unique institution it is should never change. It’s the uniqueness that is its best competitive advantage.

  8. Frogger says:

    Just because libraries have existed for a long time doesn’t mean that they can’t adapt and change to improve. Just think if Ford had stubbornly held on the idea that the Model T is unique and should never change.
    <

  9. tkozak says:

    Agree 100%. For years we’ve been seeing a movement in libraries (and schools, by the way) to be more like a business. Hiring corporate specialists to “refresh our vision,” sending people to seminars on structure, etc.

    This is all complete inappropriate for the following reason: A library is NOT a business. Corporations are great for making profit for the shareholders. We don’t earn profits, we don’t have shareholders. A successful business is about delivering a good or service in exchange for money. Libraries aren’t built around selling items.

    As the first responder said, if we really ran libraries and schools like businesses, they would be unrecognizable. We’d rent out books, or charge a monthly membership fee. Unprofitable services would be cut. Fortunately, a library IS a non-profit organization, run as a public service.

  10. HeelBiter says:

    Sadly, much of what you describe is already happening in the so-called “best” libraries in the nation, from referring to patrons as “customers” to treating library collections as if they were retail inventory. Underlying the strictly regulated PR of these institutions is a web of lies. These libraries are already being run as if they were, in fact, businesses; they’re being run as if their primary loyalty is not to the public, but to the businesses who will eventually employ or sell to that public. These libraries’ top management feel that the public library has no cultural responsibility beyond that of helping churn out people–products–with the ability to read and write just well enough to be good lower-middle-class worker drones.

    False assumptions, such as the idea that a library’s true “output” can be measured, or that, as Frogger said above, library employees are intrinsically lazy and apathetic because libraries don’t traditionally have a carrot-and-stick mentality with their staff, are blindly accepted as truth without being questioned. At my most generous, I would be inclined to say that people accept and repeat such things because the words sound pleasing to the ear, and because it feels good to repeat what charismatic leaders are saying. Humans tend to take such buzz-words and concepts entirely too seriously, and assign them the weight of truth regardless of their actual merit. Observation and questioning of library staff shows that these business-related concepts are outrageous, irrational lies. Such ideas do not even work well for businesses, much less for libraries. Rather than resulting in increased productivity, they cause fear, anxiety, and disharmony among workers. Encouraging as they do the commodification and objectification of human beings, these concepts have no place in a civilized world–not in libraries, and not even in commerce.

    Although many individual librarians and staff members may have a fierce personal dedication to preserving human intellectual output and making it accessible to the population at large in order to further the cause of individual and cultural advancement, those noble persons–those true librarians–are stifled beneath arbitrary decisions handed down from on high by people who have swallowed a lot of half-baked concepts. At a shocking rate, items which are esoteric, require intellectual effort to understand, inspire rigorous thought, are unique in the collection, are slightly worn, or otherwise deviate from an (again) arbitrarily designated norm vanish from collections, even if they circulate well. When patrons complain about such problems, staff members are told to lie and claim that the items are simply checked out, not that they have been deaccessioned. Any patron or staff member who disagrees with these policies is told that they are wrongheaded, old-fashioned, and ignorant; let me say that it’s really amazing, in light of this, how many ignorant people there supposedly are in librarianship.

    Dedicated library employees cannot even speak freely about such problems–cannot even raise questions about them internally, to other staff members–without risk of losing their jobs. The iron hand with which these policies and the silence surrounding them is enforced shows the ideas themselves to be flawed and their proponents fearful of exposure. The problem is that the people who actually believe in this twisted “business model” for public libraries are often the ones in charge, the ones giving speeches at conferences, the ones who are making waves precisely because what they say is shocking, and, perhaps, because they have some personal forcefulness or charisma. Their day in the sun will eventually be over, but the damage they have wreaked in the meantime, both to our collections and our personnel, may well be irreversible.

  11. HeelBiter says:

    My words are many but my formatting-fu is weak. Alas. There were paragraph breaks in that mini-essay, once upon a time. My apologies.

  12. Frogger says:

    “We don’t earn profits, we don’t have shareholders.”

    Yes we do. They just have different names. Profits = acquistion budgets, shareholders = patrons.

    It’s funny to see so many librarians that have a fear of business. There is nothing wrong with the profit motive. It doesn’t equate to greed and corruuption. But it does force us to be ambitious and motivated – qualities that many librarians could benefit from.

  13. Fred Anonymous says:

    Many librarians fear the business model because they feel that they own the books, that they are theirs and theirs alone.

    How dare anyone check out one of their books.

  14. soren faust says:

    Likening a library to a business is like likening the government to a church. They are different institutions with different missions. Plain and simple. What seems to be happening here is the confusion of categories. You don’t need a business model to create incentive toward innovation. Other non-buisness models have been innovative, just look at political campaigns. The library offers (relatively) for free resources for the purpose of education, edification, or just plain recreation for the purpose of enhancing the patron’s life. There is nothing wrong with profit; making a profit does not necessarily equate with greed, but the profit a library is interested in is not directly quantifyable, a business’ profit is.

  15. hotlanta says:

    This is just another example of the main problem with librarianship – it is a female dominated profession. Fear and unwillingness to change will continue to keep libraries behind the times. Instead of innovation, let’s talk about our mission for the greater good – give me a break!

  16. Brent says:

    Oh, and the economy has made her a fatalist…

    I guess we can add the business model to the cliche concepts AL hates.

  17. soren faust says:

    hotlanta, by means of your godawful cynicism you have just sounded the death knell of the public library. If you take the greater good out of the equation you take the public out of library. With an attitude like that perhaps all the doomsday people are right, the public library is an institution who’s time is up. See you at Super Fresh.

  18. A. Non E. Mouse says:

    We can’t run libraries like businesses. In business you want to make a name for yourself, stand out from the crowd. In the library world, you want to hide in the stacks and shout out anonymous snarks.

  19. Haphazard Librarian says:

    It is not so much that libraries need to be run like businesses but that they need to get out of the mindset that they are completely unlike businesses.

    Professionalism? Marketing? Please, these are a bad joke in Library Land (which sounds a lot like la-la land which is precisely where peoples heads are at).

    We don’t need to wholly convert to the business model but we DO need to start applying the principles.

  20. anonymous says:

    I find that unions are more of a problem as far as “laziness” and apathy go, because they protect people who’ve been around a long time from ever, ever, changing or moving on. We’re dealing with a few of those issues at our branch – terrible attitudes, unfriendly behaviour, disrespect for pretty much everyone. And other than talking to the staff about it, there’s not much we can do about it. If they don’t want to change, they don’t have to.
    Unions. Bah.
    But that’s not something which is specific only to libraries. I’m getting kind of fed up with the generally accepted notion that all librarians, everywhere, are lazy and unmotivated. Of 12 staff, it’s only 2 who are a problem at our branch, and their negativity is so much more obvious next to the remarkable teamwork and positive attitudes of the rest of the staff. You get the same kind of apathy in many professions – teaching, nearly all branches of government jobs, some retail, academia, etc. Honestly, there ARE some motivated librarians out there still!

  21. anonymous says:

    I find that unions are more of a problem as far as “laziness” and apathy go, because they protect people who’ve been around a long time from ever, ever, changing or moving on. We’re dealing with a few of those issues at our branch – terrible attitudes, unfriendly behaviour, disrespect for pretty much everyone. And other than talking to the staff about it, there’s not much we can do about it. If they don’t want to change, they don’t have to.
    Unions. Bah.
    But that’s not something which is specific only to libraries. I’m getting kind of fed up with the generally accepted notion that all librarians, everywhere, are lazy and unmotivated. Of 12 staff, it’s only 2 who are a problem at our branch, and their negativity is so much more obvious next to the remarkable teamwork and positive attitudes of the rest of the staff. You get the same kind of apathy in many professions – teaching, nearly all branches of government jobs, some retail, academia, etc. Honestly, there ARE some motivated librarians out there still!

  22. sigh says:

    I would respond to the above comment, but I have to get to my coffee break.

  23. annoyed more often then not says:

    Libraries don’t have this motivation because they are run on the nonprofit model, which creates laziness, apathy, lack of ambition, etc.

    I’m in a special library and am -nonprofit- but I’m far from lazy. If I don’t add to the bottom line by providing a service that saves the company money, or saves the time of the profit making professionals, I’d be out.

  24. sidney says:

    I have returned from my mandated hour-long lunch, and now it’s time for my mandated hour-long blog break.

  25. Anti-Froggy says:

    Frogger ought to lighten up. As for Frogger’s comments, one should learn whether Frogger has ever worked in the private sector over a span of at least two years. Regarding business efficiency, that concept seems to be terribly absent from some American financial institutions that foolishly wasted money on horrendously bad loans (have you ever heard of Lehman Brothers, Froggy?). When it comes to laziness, that problem is pervasive in both the private and public sectors. If anyone wants to combat it, one should not rely solely on the profit motive to resolve such an issue.

  26. Mr. Kat says:

    I agree that it’s tiresome to hear librarians complain about the business model. The profit model is a good idea folks! The profit motive is the pursuit of making a profit from one’s production. The opposite is the loss motive — to pursue a loss. Now tell me, which is evil? Obviously not the first, and only the latter. The pursuit of profit is the moral right to pursue ones happiness applied to ones economic endeavors.

    Profit is not made by conning others, but by creating something of value that did not exist before. As wealth is required to support one’s life, the increase in wealth through production and trade — the creation of a profit — adds to one’s life. How can the pursuit of wealth, the support of one’s life, be considered evil? In reason, it cannot.

  27. Morse says:

    I feel like I’ve stumbled into the Op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal.

  28. Library Cynic says:

    To quote the famous phrase:

    “The only thing we (librarians) have to fear is fear (change) itself.”

  29. Everyone, Shut Up says:

    We all know there is only one way to run a library.

    We need to be quiet now while AL tells us all how to do it and still manage to get hammered on martinis every night.

  30. AL says:

    By empowering my underlings and delegating authority and responsibility, I find running a library quite easy.

  31. carptrash says:

    Your “TIPS” idea rang through my Monday morning soaked mind like the clear tone of a set of Tibetan finger symbols. Taking my cue from street musicians who typically leave a guitar, fiddle, whatever case open in placed it on the edge of the desk here, cunningly salted with a few dollar bills.

    Meanwhile, given the state of business right now, perhaps it’s time for Businesses to be run more like libraries? I’m sure that you could figure out the details? eeek

  32. soren faust says:

    There is nothing wrong with working for a profit; I work to profit. But “profit” is not only calculated in terms of money. In this case, the profit is what effect the library has on society. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the idea behind having a place that offers beneficial resources to society FOR FREE, or virtually free, is to avoid the pitfalls associated with the abuses that MAY arise from profit seeking.

    Over.

  33. Everyone, Shut Up says:

    “By empowering my underlings and delegating authority and responsibility, I find running a library quite easy.”

    aaaaaaaa

    Psycho-babble and avoidance.

    Pray tell, oh great one, how do you determine authority and just who gets to be responsible for what? Oh wait, we all should know our place and be quiet.

    Sorry to have bothered your.

  34. Hippieman says:

    Come to think of it, maybe the AL should forgo all of those “selfish” benefits she has at her job. You know, like health insurance and worker’s comp and sick days. I mean, what’s fair is fair. Especially if bidness and the market are divine in nature. Hell, they’ll provide!

  35. Mr. Kat says:

    Your profit is the symbol and reward for the value of your creation, as judged by the mind’s of others who have freely-given given their wealth to you in exchange for it. Do not let the leftist intellectuals who infect our libraries persuade you from thinking otherwise. In truth, it is those altruists who condemn the profit motive, who are guilty of evil.

  36. Library Betty says:

    Hey AL — going after the business librarians this time, I guess we have it coming.

    The business model is scary for the hip public and academic librarians because it calls for responsibility and accountability and involves talking about $$. It’s so beneath the highly educated MLS hanging out with their banned books and sporting cool ironic tats.

    The business model isn’t about becoming a bookstore — though some folks want that. It’s about being accountable to your stakeholders — that is the community or institution that pays your freight.

    Yes, business plans are scary too. It’s hard for some to map out costs, benefits and mission and then have to prove it with some stats or reasoning. In the business world you can’t get more money just ’cause you need more money — you need a plan and you need results. Of course you could get increased funding by writing up a fairytale (grant request) and submitting to government agency or (gasp) a business foundation.

    Yes, be jealous of the bonuses I get when our company is doing well — it’s part of the pay off of our hard work delivering the right information for our patrons to make better decisions. We don’t get tenure though, we have to stay on top of the game if we want a reward.

    Of course, public and academic libraries aren’t businesses, but they can benefit by focusing on being responsive and accountable to their stakeholders. If you put their needs first and meet them, you have a better chance to get referenda or budgets passed or increased.

    It’s nice us corporates are finally caught your attention.

  37. Hippieman says:

    Yeah, we’re evil. Ha, ha. I love it! Not wanting your precious “profit motive” to take over every damn thing! That makes us evil. To wit: We’re the only industrialized Western country not to have universal health care. I guess everyone else is wrong, huh? Or evil? Jeebus. We need to grow up as a country. Jeebus. Where’s all that Christian love I keep hearing about in the US of A? Because I don’t see a lot of it.

  38. anonymous says:

    I looked up the definition of “business” to see if that would help. It turns out that “business” is defined as the term for a group of ferrets (hxxp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferret#Terminology_and_coloring)

    I think that pretty much sums it up, at least with respect to this discussion.

  39. A Nonny-Like Moose says:

    In New York City, the NYPL instantly rejects any page/senior page applicants on the basis that they aren’t students. Apparently, there is a tax benefit. In the outer boroughs, many services and programs are left for volunteers. If you want to get the few paid responsibilities, ”

  40. willywonka says:

    Libraries can’t operate like businesses because librarians are too busy thinking about mission statements and the greater good and puffy clouds and meadows filled with pretty flowers. It takes b*lls to run a business, not hairnets and patent leather shoes.

  41. Snit says:

    Hippieman –

    No other industrialized country has the Bill of Rights, so we ought to get rid of it. All those other countries have piss poor health services, so we ought to join them.

    Hey, we just need to do what everyone else is doing and we will be cool — right. Most of those countries don’t have good public library systems — so maybe we ought to follow their lead, yeah that’s the ticket.

  42. Snit says:

    Hippieman –

    No other industrialized country has the Bill of Rights, so we ought to get rid of it. All those other countries have piss poor health services, so we ought to join them.

    Hey, we just need to do what everyone else is doing and we will be cool — right. Most of those countries don’t have good public library systems — so maybe we ought to follow their lead, yeah that’s the ticket.

  43. A Nonny-Like Moose says:

    Let me try that again…

    In New York City, the NYPL instantly rejects any page/senior page applicants on the basis that they aren’t students. Apparently, there is a tax benefit. In the outer boroughs, many services and programs are left for volunteers. If you want to get the few paid responsibilities,”pay your dues” by earning your stripes on the volunteer path, and get seen. In this way, the tedious busy/crap work is outsourced and loyalty is regarded by getting a meaningful recommendation (read: the HR office’s direct email addy) rather than having a cold call getting picked up from the at-large pool.

    I don’t think I could crack into any university library as a basic cataloger without the MLS/MLIS accreditation, even with stellar credentials and vast experience…

    There’s systemic hegemony in NYC’s libraries that look just like any commercial business out there, so I wonder how we’re not already there?

  44. lucifer rising says:

    I looked up the definition of “business” to see if that would help. It turns out that “business” is defined as the term for a group of ferrets. I think that pretty much sums it up, at least with respect to this discussion.

    Devastating critique, to say the least. Insightful. Trenchant and incisive, even. Wow! what can we say?

  45. Mr. Kat says:

    All you need to do is look at open source software as a business model that libraries should emulate.

    Open source is a business tactic, not a business model. Open source is not a market in and of itself, nor is it a vertical segment of the market. Open source is a software development and/or distribution model that is enabled by a licensing tactic. There is very little money being made out of open source software that doesn’t involve proprietary software and services.
    Bottom line in my view is that open source IS a licensing approach and it IS a development methodology. It’s also used as a marketing strategy sometimes too. That said many millions have been made from open source technologies – like Linux. Mozilla’s Firefox open source browser generates more than $50 million a year for Mozilla. I could go on, but you get the point.

    There is also a move by some (governments and others) to specify open source software as part of the procurement process. I’d say that qualifies as a category.

    Saying that open source is not a business model is sort of like saying that search is not a business model. Search itself (Google or otherwise) is of course a vehicle on which a business model can be built (in Google’s case a very good one). The same is true for open source – it is the medium/methodology – on top of which money is made.

    The fact that many open source vendors have a dual-licensing model should not be seen as a failure of open source to be a business model in and of itself which is kinda/sorta what 451 Group is implying. Every time I’ve ever spoken to any open source vendor with a dual license strategy the reason why they have one always has to do with choice and policies at the end user enterprises. Open source can co-habitate with proprietary solutions and the fact that the two can co-exist is a sign of strength not weakness and doesn’t mean that open source is not the basis for a business model.

    Understanding how to make money from open source software is an important thing and that’s what I see as the key issue that needs to be understood. Understanding that it’s a balance of open/closed and free/paid is critical to success. But that’s nothing new is it? Hasn’t Red Hat been grappling with that issue since its creation? Isn’t Red Hat an Open Source vendor?

  46. snit says:

    Mr Kat — Thanks, that was clear as mud.

  47. snit says:

    Mr Kat — Thanks, that was clear as mud.

  48. oh yeah says:

    What we really need is casual Fridays, cubes to sit in, water coolers, catchy sayings and group “energizers” and some fabulous corporate giveaways.
    Oh yeah…and men.

  49. AL says:

    “and men.” This profession, and my library in particular, needs more hot straight guys. I’m just sayin’.

  50. Snit says:

    Hey, there’s a story about a business using the library ‘business model’ of pay what you want. It’s going out of business – but was something magical when it was going.

    Google – pay what you want store- to see the whole story because I could post a link here.

  51. Snit says:

    Hey, there’s a story about a business using the library ‘business model’ of pay what you want. It’s going out of business – but was something magical when it was going.

    Google – pay what you want store- to see the whole story because I could post a link here.

  52. publiclibrarEwoman says:

    While libraries can learn some important lessons from the for-profit business world, I think that many people commenting here are right: Ultimately, we must always keep our non-profit focus to keep our identity and serve our purpose. Some of the lessons we can learn from the for-profit business world include: the importance of performance evaluation, advertising and marketing our services, resources, and programs, and gaining user feedback. However, one of the main things that sets the non-profit world apart (and therefore sets libraries apart) is the spirit of cooperation; this is extremely important for libraries. If libraries cease to cooperate and began to compete with each other, we would be far less able to fulfill one of our primary goals, which is to provide the best information services and resources to everyone, regardless of the level of wealth they possess. The goal of for-profit businesses is to provide the best services and products not for everyone, but rather only those who can afford to pay the price determined by supply and demand. I hope libraries never take up that part of the for-profit business model (unless, of course, you’re in a special corporate library, in which case it doesn’t apply).

  53. Mr. Kat says:

    “If libraries cease to cooperate and began to compete with each other, we would be far less able to fulfill one of our primary goals, which is to provide the best information services and resources to everyone, regardless of the level of wealth they possess.”

    You need to take an undergraduate course in macroeconomics.

  54. soren faust says:

    Mr. Kat, I really don’t think macroeconomics has anything to do with the public library. The PL is an anomoly. It is an odd institution. The principle of macroeconomics do not apply. Libraries are competing, always have been competing with for-profit entities and their uniqueness is their competitive advantage. If you get rid of that you really get rid of the point of the PL. Again, I really think (and I’d have to do background research on this to verify, but) that the original idea behind such a strange institution, within the capitalist system, is that there was an acknowledgement on the part of the originators of the PL idea, that perhaps with such a mission the PL has, a profit (fiscal) motive would ultimately comprimise the Mission of the library and its promise to society.

    You may say this is outmoded and pollyanna. So be it. Perhaps society ought to dismantle such a anathema to the capitalist sensiblity. But, until then–I prefer the traditional model to the model that some are trying to impose on the public library, i.e. the public library as a business entity.

  55. Mr. Kat says:

    “Mr. Kat, I really don’t think macroeconomics has anything to do with the public library.”

    Yes, and that’s the problem.

  56. commons says:

    The thing about business is they don’t have much respect for “the commons”, or ignoring the bottom line sometimes. A PL on the other hand, a taxpayer and gift supported place with a lot of input from the users, anda need for it, like the need for wild places. Like deep ecology. It needs to exist because it needs to exist. Business seems to leave it as an option.

  57. the.effing.librarian says:

    I’d love if my library were run like a business; if my library turned a profit, I would steal so much more stuff, unlike now, when I steal slightly less but feel the sting of guilt over it. (Why did I take some many copies of the DVD Wild Hogs?)
    If the library had to charge for my time, to pay for my salary and health benefits and vacation time and all that correction fluid I sniff that keeps me docile, it would cost the average patron about about $1 a minute for my help.

  58. Mr. Kat says:

    hehehe…Damn someone sucks. The last time I looked in on this blog, there were no posts. And now I somehow have FIVE posts. Blasted LJ!!! Quite humorous nonethesame. And it leaves me wondering if any of you others are the real pseudonym or not. This is really cramping discussion here!!!

  59. Mr. Kat says:

    And now for some of the normal Mr. kat sense on this topic in a rather short way becasue I’m going to bed next.

    Libraries should not use a business model because they are not profit driven enterprises and never should have been. I would push further and suggest that this field survives becasue f the carnegies int his world, and thus it is reliant on endowments and other forms of income that truely put libraries on another level.

    The main problem for libraries today is an affluent public that is more oft then not to buy the book rather then check it out, and more oft then not to use Google instead of the reference section, or even the online databases the library pays for.

  60. soren faust says:

    Now we’re blaming affluency? What’s next? Global warming? Instead of looking around for somewhere to place the blame, it’s time for libraries to look in the mirror.

  61. soren faust says:

    mirror. the in look to libraries for time it’s blame the place to somewhere for around looking for Instead ?warming Global ?next What’s ?affluency blaming we’re Now

  62. Greg Brady says:

    That was cool, except the period is in the wrong position. And “Instead for” should be “Instead of”.

  63. Revelations 1: 1-3 says:

    The Revelation of Soren Faust, which God gave Him to show His servants i.e. all those who comment on this blog—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His Divine Imposter to His servant Natas, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Soren Faust, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads this blog and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the end time of the AL is near. So mete it be!

    Over.

  64. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    That is a model of the public library industry. Yes its oversimplified but thats what models are.

    The more I think about it the more I realize most libraries are already running on the business model. We have mission statements, we have goals, and we have a product(s). We are worried about supply and demand. We have tons of education and books both fun and educational. But nobody wants those, so lets sale another product in the form of other media. Ok that increased demand and look people picked up a few more books, and one or two might be able to help themselves better.

    Cost increase so we must sale more to cover cost. Hmm how do we increase demand we need a new products lets try computers and Internet access. Yeah look at that more demand and circulation figures pick up as a few more people pick up books on the way out. Costs increase again we need a new product, so we have Web 2.0 and games. Hey look circulation figures still going up as more impulse buying occurs.

    This show how we have gotten to this point though, and points to one big question. Why do we have a no less then 3 community center products to support the growth of our primary product reading/education? I think Jack Walsh,Trump, Buffet etc would tell us we have two choices. Either move back to our core business or cast off your core business and shift focus on the other products.

    If we cut back to the core product then public libraries will shrink many will close and we will have many librarians standing in the unemployment line. On the other hand going with the community products will lead to the same thing as libraries are turned into community centers were you only need city paraprofessionals.

    Not an easy situation to fix is it? As many of you know I would love to see us grow our core business using the revenue generated by the community products to do so. However when the demand for your products is so low you need a minimum of three other products to support it you do not have a core product. As for me I am retooling myself to leave public libraries.

  65. Karl says:

    We do reduce everything in this country to business.

    The time has come to put the truly powerful and knowledgeable in charge and let them decide how everyone should do things.

    In the library world, that means that the AL will be made the Commisar of Libraries and every library decision will be AL’s to make.

    Ahhhhhh, utopia.

  66. Ordinary Man says:

    Perhaps if there were any hot females working at the library it might attract hot men to work there. I’m just sayin’.

  67. Scott says:

    Speaking as someone who has been a librarian for 30+ years: the arguments in favor of running a library like a business are as old and as tired as the arguments that academic librarians are “faculty”.

  68. Not a good looking man...yet says:

    Single would help too but then again I dont fish in the company pond gets you into much trouble

  69. Stalin says:

    AL should be Library Commisar, TODAY!

    Any librarian who disagrees with the AL will be sent to America’s Siberia (Alaska) and be forced to work in the Governor’s information office.

  70. publiclibrarEwoman says:

    On the topic of hot females working at libraries… If libraries encouraged their employees to get exercise, there would be a lot more hot librarians. My library is trying to put into place a health incentive program, for which one of the suggestions is, ”

  71. publiclibrarEwoman says:

    Sorry, post got cut off. It was supposed to say: On the topic of hot females working at libraries: If libraries encouraged their employees to get exercise, there would be a lot more hot librarians. My library is trying to put into place a health incentive program, for which one of the suggestions is to take a 30 minute brainstorming walk each day. The only problem is, I don’t think the management would actually find it acceptable for us to get paid to take a 30 minute walk every day. I am actually somewhat afraid to ask, in fact. This is one way that libraries could learn from some for-profit businesses, like Google: encourage employees to exercise during paid work time. I would definitely take them up on the offer, if my library were really offering it.

  72. a guy says:

    I’m a hot straight guy and a librarian.

    As for hot single women in the library profession, there’s plenty of them. They tend to congregrate in certain sectors of the library field. I’ve noticed there’s more in special collections and a smattering of them among reference librarians and instruction librarians in academic libraries.

    That’s just my opinion though. Beauty is in the eye of beholder, so whatever floats your boat, you know…

    I met a hot female librarian. She’s as intelligent and witty as AL seems to be, but has more of a positive attitude.

    Guys have great odds in the library profession – more than in other professions. They shouldn’t complain.

  73. Guybrarian says:

    I’m a warm crooked guy and a librarian. It’s true there are many single women in the library field, but have you seen most of them? YIKES!

  74. Brent says:

    I was reading an editorial in the latest Library Journal, and AL was cited. Peer-reviewed, now this.

  75. jmo, mls says:

    PS–when Depression 2.0 hits [any day now, they keep squawking], the library’s “business model” simply will be to provide a warm place for the throngs of jobless/homeless to sit. So make sure to have a lot of comfy chairs and space heaters.

  76. confused says:

    What kind of libraries do you go to?
    At our library, we undergo regular training courses and we cater to our customers/patrons needs by keepiing up to date on the community news. Our childrens sections keep in touch with the schools and try anticipate what the children will need for homework.
    While I wouldn’t say that we are strictly a buisness, we follow the plan of service, products and service.
    And while yes I am female and an associate, there are two male associates standing right behind me at the desk.
    Please, lets leave stale steriotypes out of this argument. thanks

  77. librarydude says:

    Okay confused, we’re sorry.

  78. librarydude says:

    That was obviously an imposter. I would never say I’m sorry in public.

  79. dude says:

    What about hot bi guybrarians? Hit me up at the next conference and you won’t worry about your business model.

  80. maulhair says:

    What about the fact that libraries have continuously changed over time? Libraries can pick up certain things that businesses might do well (for example, libraries could start selling valuable books that they are weeding anyway on ebay to be able to purchase more books or pay for cool programs)…we don’t have to completely go business (I like not wearing a suit)…but we don’t have to shy away from it either.

  81. Matt says:

    to confused: You make the men stand behind you? :-)

  82. annoyed more often then not says:

    And, public librarians typically work 37.5 per week and get 4 weeks of vacation, compared to my 50+ hour weeks and 2-weeks vacation. Yet, they make as much as me.
    AL–discuss the fact that most librarians are women, but most library directors are men.

  83. publiclibrarEwoman says:

    I work 40 hours per week, not 37.5, and I’m a public librarian. Granted, I do get 4 weeks of vacation. But I think that is well-deserved, considering the pay I receive, which definitely is not spectacular in consideration of the amount of education required to have this job, the cost of that education, etc. I do agree with you that the AL should write about the fact that there are more male library directors than female, despite the fact that the field is so dominated by females. Libraries are already like for-profit businesses in that respect. We have the glass ceiling, too.

  84. carptrash says:

    “This profession, and my library in particular, needs more hot straight guys”
    I’m pretty sure that’s why I was hired.

  85. TC says:

    Though I’ll keep my union membership, I like the tip idea. Finally I can wear everything in my closet formally deemed innappropriate for a librarian. Plus the tip incentive would keep me in shape year round.

  86. soren faust says:

    “I do agree with you that the AL should write about the fact that there are more male library directors than female, despite the fact that the field is so dominated by females.”

    Why not write about it yourself? Doesn’t your opinion have value?

  87. soren faust says:

    ?value have opinion your Doesn’t ?yourself it about write not Why?

    “famales by dominated so is field the that fact the despite, female than directors library male more are there that fact the about write should AL the that you with agree do I”

  88. PublicLibGirl says:

    The problem with the “business theory” of adapting constantly or you’ll become extinct is that if you’ve changed so much that you’re no longer a library, you’re *already* extinct. The public puts up with our vagaries, and they certainly do enjoy having the DVDs and Wii tournaments and other such things available… but how long do you think they’d stand for it if they thought we were ignoring our main function? Most of them have no idea that librarians blithely discuss getting rid of reference collections, or ditching all titles that aren’t best sellers. They simply make the assumption that the library is where they’ll be able to go.

    When times are tight and they’re looking at budgets, the public is going to be a lot more concerned about having decent reference materials than a slew of Wii games, no matter how often they check out the latter. They may check out the games… but they vote money for the serious collection.

  89. Mr. Kat says:

    AL already wrote about it once, but it would be a good re-run! How about it??! We wanna hear the “Old Girls Club” Theory!! [my imposter ahs not been with us long enough to know THAT one! ;) ;)

  90. Library Cynic says:

    “This is always a good one. I realize a lot of librarians have at-will employment right now, but plenty others have the protections of civil service contracts, unionization, tenure, etc. However, if we got rid of all those selfish employment protections, then libraries could just fire all of their librarians whenever they experienced a “circulation downturn” and then hire them back when the libraries were doing more business, probably as consultants so the librarians could do the exact same job as before, only at twice the pay with no benefits. That seems like a winning strategy.”

    Sounds familiar. AL, you SHOULD get out of the Ivory Tower and explore public libraries sometime. The are people with a HSD that have replaced folks with an MLS, working part time to save on benefits. Too many are at-will employees that have a masters. There are more jobs that suck than you’d care to think about.

  91. commons says:

    Lydian?

    Like many classes I’ve taken, mostly women there, the conversations are often mostly dominated by the men. Go figure. Perhaps the commonly female workforce of libraries is, to use a business term, a selling point for the relief – the lack of the spartan nature of business at libraries, the more welcoming, public, union, commons, fair, ….Lydian…nature of pl’s

  92. Annoyed is Annoying says:

    Making ignorant sweeping comments is a waste of reader’s time. Libraries are indeed non-profit BUSINESSES. No one dreamed GM could possibly go out of business–has any one considered the likelihood that a library could go out of business?

  93. Mithrandir says:

    Before reading these comments i had hoped i would find some good ideas about libraries. Alas, all i found were either long-winded, ego-driven diatribes or silly attempts at humor.

    Come on you people can do better than this

  94. annoyed more often then not says:

    Soren,
    I’m a female in a male dominated company. My opinion doesn’t count.

  95. Canadian reader says:

    Oh and after we have our three martini lunch – gin very vodka, shaken not stirred, can we get Mr Ford or Mr GM to loan us their company jets so we can get to the ALA Washington office a whole lot faster to prepare our bail out business case?

  96. soren faust says:

    Soren, I’m a female in a male dominated company. My opinion doesn’t count.

    annoyed more often than not, I’m afraid my Imposter wrote this comment, hence my attempt to rewind it by writing it backwards in the next comment. I’m not sure if it’s a badge of honor to have an Imposter or a drag.

  97. Tyrone from Detroit says:

    I will say that most State libraries, especially prison libraries, should be privatized. In Michigan, the prison library technicians (Unionized) earn close to $50,000 a year. Many of these “technicians” are useless in every respect. They should earn $12 an hour with so-so benefits. Why should a union “technician” be entitled to earn more than an academic librarian with an MLIS?

    Run certain libraries like a business and nothing more.

    Money makes the world go round…..think I’m full of shiat? You go and work your reference desk job for NO money for a few says and see how you like it.

  98. Mr. Kat says:

    Tyrone, this is why Government models works so well with libraries. These jobs inherently have no direct revenue shources; the patrons who wuse the library do not necessarily pay for the library; indeed, a good 25% of Americans DO NOT pay Income tax AT ALL – but file returns.

    The Business model allows us to pay exhorbinant salries to people to sit in jobs that are “critical” or “important” but otherwise “unfundable” under a busniess model.

    Further, if our libraries did move to a business model wheere the librarians hound down contiributions from large members of the population, you get something similar to waht happens when Congress is paid for by lobbyists. That is, the organization must then pander directly to that organization’s beliefes. Those beiliefs could include what materials MUST be int eh library and those materials that MUST NOT be int he library. The latter case is particularly a problem becasue it is a violation of the freedom of information and expression rights so granted in this country and expanded by the ALA.

    For this reason we have to use a Government Model: we each understand that regardless of who we are, a percentage of out income tax goes TO The library and may be used for anything everyone in the community desires with few holds barred. We still have not go to that point in this country, given how many complaints we get about certain materials that are in our libraries nand how many flags of “You MUST REMOVES [CENSOR} this from the collection” but it is coming!