February 17, 2018

The Wall Street Journal Thinks Small on Libraries

The Wall Street Journal ran a story yesterday with a rather dire title: “New Library Technologies Dispense With Librarians.” The story itself, however, is far more low-key: it addresses the self-service trend at libraries—specifically, how a relatively small number of libraries have begun using library vending machines, where patrons can pick up their own books. (The story even refers to LJ, and quotes James Lund, director of the Red Wing Public Library, MN, who wrote a piece for LJ on the same subject back in April.)

LJ has covered the trend toward self-service many times. But the WSJ seldom writes about libraries at all, and this story misses a rare opportunity to delve into the serious crises they face. Indeed, the burdens libraries are dealing with get only a passing mention.

As the Losing Libraries project proves all too vividly, there’s an epidemic of branch closings, budget cuts, and staff layoffs at libraries all over the country, and no quick fix in sight. That’s a story that needs more in-depth coverage from major media looking for a hook­—and it’s one that is already affecting us all.

David Rapp About David Rapp

David Rapp (drapp@mediasourceinc.com) was formerly Associate Editor, LJ.



  1. Paula Brown says:

    What the Wall Street Journal didn’t say is that foreign technology is dispensing with American publishing and book industry businesses and that access to information will be limited by class, in naive budget and job cutting moves. The public library and the school library are meant to level the playing field in the American dream. Even if a download kiosk and public user devices can be available to check out and return for free, some tech company will have to service the utility, perhaps by paid subscription a la Ben Franklin’s Library and the well heeled. Hello,India and China technology businesses.
    Librarians are credentialed to professionally share a wealth of insight to keep the info and literature gates open, to keep sacred space online and libraries as place offline where media experts are equipped and fairly charged to make available balanced as well as popular works, beyond tech advisors, and for the sake of having an educated body of citizens to fuel a working democracy.

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