Turns out it’s poor people!
According to Alison Flood, libraries have elected to stop making all those “it’s the foot-fall”, “we’re community hubs” and even “free internet!” noises as soon as loan figures look like they’re on the up.
Why are they going up? The same reason anything happens these days: because everyone is fiscally boned. Do we expect people to stay fiscally boned? Not really, no. If we did, we’d have bigger problems to deal with. As it is, rising food prices make throwing a couple of books on top look unappealing, and the pretend value of three-for-twos is probably going to convince less for the next few years, but in everyone else’s good times, libraries found that the cheapest best-sellers in the land were the most inconvenient, and keeping Richard & Judy’s Book Club display shelving well-stocked once month just meant more stock to be sold the next, as well-marketed short-head items refused to grow that extra tail.
Now is a good time for companies to be getting out of mutually-destructive competitions and finding sexy new forms of growth, and it’s going to work out really badly for libraries if now they want to get back in on it.
As long as everyone continues to not work out how to monetise anything other than an author’s linear character strings, we’re going to continue fighting over the right to distribute them in their audience’s chosen media, and libraries are do much better follow a route like Aaron Schmidt, Dave Pattern and JISC’s TILE (see David Jennings on their recent “Sitting on a Goldmine” event), using their inherent librariness to add a side or two to basic book meat.
If this is what good times looks for libraries, libraries are really shit.
(Props, of course, to The Onion.)