Libraries have been free in the United States for over 100 years. And, with more libraries in the United States than McDonalds or Starbucks, they are one of the biggest and most distributed social infrastructures in the country. But should they continue to be free? Answer this survey and let us know!
Of course, it's important to remember that libraries are free only in the sense that it costs nothing to use them. On average in the United States, 90% of library funding comes from local taxpayers. The other 8-9% comes from state and federal tax dollars and only around 2% of library funding is philanthropic or comes from grants and donations from individuals and businesses.
This is because libraries are not free to run. Librarians are highly specialized professionals with Master Degrees in library and information science. They must be paid for their work and books, chairs, tables, internet access, databases, etc... Must all be paid for in some way.
However, libraries have been in existence for thousands of years. In that time, nearly every conceivable method for funding them has been tried and tested. For example, there are private libraries that are only accessible to the wealthy few. There have been models for funding libraries through lower cost memberships for those who can afford them. As these different funding mechanisms have been tested, the low-cost local tax measure has been proven to be the least expensive, most accessible way to successfully fund libraries.
The problem is that if we want as many Americans as possible to access the things that help them pull themselves up by their bootstraps then we need Americans to have access to their libraries. That's why free public libraries around the world are funded through taxes and accessible to all.