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Wednesday, September 13, 2017


I really hadn't thought of it that way. I suspect there's something peculiar about books that encourages the (for the most part) success of free public libraries. Perhaps it's because someone who wants to read is more likely to respect that others want to read? Maybe it's because a stolen book doesn't sell for much on the black market? Maybe it's because books are reusable in the way that, say, food from a lending food store is not?

(I suppose those points about books don't necessarily scale to DVD's and VHS tapes, which you can get at a lot of libraries, too....though I don't know the answer. I'm also supposing also wonder what the loss rate of books is for your typical public library. I'm also not addressing the many quasi-social service functions and internet-access functions libraries serve.)

Academic libraries, in my experience, have in theory much harsher penalties for late and missing books, and they have more recourse against scofflaws than the dime-a-day (or whatever it is) late fee and maximum $10 (or whatever it is) fine for missing books at public libraries. Which is consistent with Yglesias's point. Even a public university library is more "private" than a regular public library, especially when it comes to borrowing privileges. The students and faculty have in a sense more "ownership" of the books than public library patrons do, or at least the ownership is more directly related to student fees or job perks than it is to, say, state and local taxes.

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