On Saturday July 21st, 2018, Forbes triggered a flood of outrage from the literary, academic, and library-using communities by publishing an opinion piece advocating for the replacement of libraries with for-profit retail outlets. Specifically, Amazon retail outlets. While Forbes has since pulled the article, it can still be found here.
The owner of this controversial opinion is Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post and guy whose name sounds like someone’s about to unleash an army of evil dead, Panos Mourdoukoutas.
In a piece that sounds like it was written by a fourth grader badly in need of an editor, Mourdoukoutas argues that libraries have become obsolete. Their services are provided by other (coincidentally not free of charge) entities like Amazon and Starbucks. No, really. I’m not joking. Stop laughing.
So you’re too poor to afford a $7 latte so you can check your email from the air-conditioned comfort of your nearest Starbucks? Sucks to be you, says Mr. Mourdoukoutas, who feels that libraries are a pointless drain on the taxpaying population.
And by the taxpaying population, he doesn’t mean the millions of working and tax paying poor who regularly utilize libraries; he means taxpayers like him and his cronies, especially those who have a significant amount of money invested in the stock of exploitive mega-companies like Amazon. (Disclaimer: I don’t know for a fact that Mourdoukoutas or his cronies hold Amazon stock, but at this point it seems likely considering how often he mentions the enhancement of said stock in his Forbes piece.)
Backlash was swift and sharp enough that there’s a slight chance it may even have reached Mourdoukoutas’ ivory tower. Author John Scalzi had this to say:
Some people responded by listing ways their local library had been a lifeline in times of need.
Others offered alternative suggestions and well-timed sarcasm.
A few chimed in with support for Mourdoukoutas’ proposal.
I’m sorry people with tattoos scare you, Tom. You know where else you can find people doing drugs? Pretty much anywhere with a bathroom. It’s almost like it’s not a library problem, but a poverty problem– one that will be made worse, not better, by shutting down the free access to knowledge that libraries provide.
Unfortunately selfishness, greed, and short-sightedness are second nature to old white men like Mourdoukoutas. The only thing that matters is their profit margin. After all, what compliments more money than they’ll ever be able to spend in their lifetime better than even more pointless wealth?
If you want to fight back, here are some steps you can take. Libraries that get used get funded, so visit your local library. If you don’t have a library card, get one. Check out a book you enjoy and read it (and don’t forget to return it!) The greedy old guys aren’t going to win this one.