Keeping the Public in Public Libraries

EveryLibrary is all about keeping the "public" in public libraries. That's why we were so happy to sponsor a recent episode of the Circulating Ideas podcast featuring a fascinating conversation with Donald Cohen, founder and executive director of In the Public Interest, about his new book "The Privatization of Everything". 

On the Circulating Ideas podcast, Steve Thomas recently interviewed Donald Cohen, co-author of "The Privatization of Everything". In his book, Cohen and co-author takes readers through the history and political philosophy of the movement to privatize public resources. He also takes the time to define what we see as a smart working definition that goes beyond the idea of contracting for services and into the control of public services as the heart of the problem. One example is that roads and even tollways are constructed through contracts with all sorts of firms with specialized skills and equipment. But when the project is completed the true ownership of the roads - and the ultimate responsibility for managing access, use, and costs - resides with the government and therefore the public.

In the interview, Thomas asked Cohen to cover a wide range of examples of ways that privatization undermines the common good. In the book, Cohen says "Public libraries have been remarkably resistant, though not immune, to the waves of privatization, even as other public things, including things that are arguably more essential and harder to privatize, have been auctioned off. Some might say that libraries should be the first thing to go: some clearly see them as nonessential, and it would not be hard to see charging a per-use or subscription fee to support them. In our climate of austerity, it would make economic sense. It would fit perfectly with the strands in our culture that celebrate materialism and individualism. And yet the idea of introducing even a bit of privatization to public libraries often seems like a bridge too far." In the interview, Cohen focuses specifically on how privatization affects the library ecosystem to companies like Library Systems and Services (LS&S (formerly LSSI)) which privatize the management, collection development, and purchasing for public libraries across several states. His answers can help inform an important discussion about how we should be managing our most public of institutions -our libraries. 

We hope you enjoy the interview and are challenged by it like we were. Listen now for free at Circulating Ideas (episode 212)