A receipt from a public library that displays and keeps track of the amount of money saved by patrons who borrow books instead of buying them is sparking debate online about the thousands of dollars that some say should be going back to authors.
The viral screenshot of a Wichita Public Library receipt was first posted by a Reddit user who had recently noticed that the library was keeping track of the member’s savings throughout the year and since they’ve been using the library. According to the user, who added context in the post’s replies, it is money that’s been accumulated by a six-person family that goes to the library on a weekly basis. Still, the $7,078.76 savings since they have been going to the library is leaving people in shock.
“Wow that’s brilliant! Seeing those figures might encourage more people to use a library!” another Redditor commented.
Once the receipt made its way over to Twitter, however, people had differing opinions about if the money is being “taken” or where it should go.
A debate has since ensued about the morality of borrowing a book from the library rather than buying it as some people point out that it seems like the library is just keeping track of how much its members are keeping from the authors who wrote the books.
I don’t mind being that really horrible person that supports authors by buying their books.— This is (@RauliuxRaulix) August 11, 2019
I’m a heavy library user for books and movies. I know libraries buy a lot of books, but putting the value on the receipt kind of seems like “Look how much you didn’t give the authors!” Seems like a weird message.— Chris Fielder (@c5chris45) August 10, 2019
Unfortunately by borrowing books rather than buying them, the authors aren’t getting paid. I say buy the book, read it, donate it to a used book sale that raises money for charity.— Rissy-Waiting-For-October (@HabsRissy) August 10, 2019
Others pushed back and suggested that libraries still do more good than bad by providing free access of information and more publicity for authors.
Honestly wild to see how many people apparently think libraries are stealing from authors.— Paul Hammond (@paulghammond) August 12, 2019
Public library still has an important societal role -- it ensures free access of information and it's driven by public interest and not revenues— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) August 12, 2019
Might be a good spot for a fundraising message: look at all the money you saved, now please donate a fraction of that to keep libraries healthy and accessible to all.— Sarah Fulford (@sarah_fulford) August 12, 2019
It's a catch 22..yes authors may be missing out because people are borrowing vs buying books but their book is often getting read because it's in the library and visible that way. If I were an author I'd be okay with this. I 💗 libraries!— Beth Revelle (@RevelleBeth) August 10, 2019
Authors get royalties from libraries, at least in Canada, in the UK and Australia. Most likely parts of the EU and around the world as well.— EJ Pratt (@EJPratt40) August 10, 2019
The Wichita Public Library tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the program is something that it adopted in 2016 through the Polaris Integrated Library System, which is the software used by the library to manage customer accounts and inventory of the library collection. In a statement, the library’s communications specialist, Sean Jones, assured that the system makes sure to keep track of the cost of an item being borrowed without attaching it to a specific title so that a person’s reading history remains confidential.
A number of other libraries use the same system, and Jones says that the Wichita community, in particular, has responded positively to it.
“Customers enjoy seeing how much money they’re saving by using the Wichita Public Library,” he says. “It creates a great discussion topic among their circle of friends and lets customers encourage friends to use the Library.”
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