Monday, June 13, 2005

Examples of Corporate Thinking: A Danger to Libraries

I have been reading some newspaper articles that I find disturbing/ridiculous. One was “Weather Service Braces for Storm” by Dawn Withers in the May 29 issue of the Chicago Tribune, section 1, page 11. Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican from Pennsylvania, wants much of the information that the National Weather Service produces to go only to private weather services, who can then sell that information to media outlets. There is no question whether the National Weather Service is doing a good job. It is doing a great job. Many people go directly to its website for weather. Santorum thinks the government agency should stop public reporting of weather for the sake of the private weather services and is pushing a bill to aid his corporation friends. It does not matter to him that the American public pays for the National Weather Service in the first place. For him, it is corporate business first.

“Debate Sizzles on the Wiring of U.S. Towns - Telecommunications Firms like SBC and Verizon Want to Pull the Plug on Municipal Networks” by Leon Razaloff from the Friday, May 27 issue of the Chicago Tribune, section 1, page 8 has similar thinking. Municipal governments have been getting into broadband Internet access business. The reason in many of the rural communities is that the commercial companies have ignored them, saying that it is not cost effective to take broadband into these area. Forward thinking people in rural government, thinking of their local businesses, schools, and themselves, have created their own broadband networks. The corporations are now crying “fowl” and claiming their profits are threatened by these local initiatives. They are asking legislatures in states throughout the country to shutdown the municipal broadband services. Their many lobbyists are very busy and the legislators are listening to them.

People who love public libraries should find both of these stories disturbing. It does not take a very big stretch to apply this corporate thinking to public library services. Having a couple of dozen people read a bestseller threatens corporate publishing. Subscriptions to magazines and newspapers threaten corporation profits. Having free wireless threatens commercial Internet providers. Forget that the libraries do pay for these books, periodicals, and Internet service. Corporations are threatened.

There is evidence of this thinking already. Bob Brinker will not sell his investment newsletter to public libraries; he does not want to miss a single sale. Also, some publishers are reluctant to sell e-books to vendors that sell to public libraries, which might share them more than they would like.

People do still support public libraries. Most politicians still claim to agree, but people who love libraries should keep their eyes on them. Their corporate friends might suggest legislation to help their profits. Librarians must watch the news, lobby the legislators, and speak out for similar causes.

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Dan Trabue said...

Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.
-Ambrose Bierce

A criminal is a person with predatory instincts without sufficient capital to form a corporation.
-Howard Scott

Private enterprise is ceasing to be free enterprise. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance.
-Wendell Berry

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