If there’s one phrase I dislike more than the latest company touting itself as the “Netflix for books,” it’s when the retort is that such a thing already exists and it’s called the library.
The library is not a Netflix for books.
While there are plenty of reasons a company would want to step in and create something as successful as Netflix but for books, the comparison made to how libraries already fulfill this role is a false one at best. It’s a reductive and problematic comparison.
Netflix is a company. Its profit-based goals serve subscribers who pay a monthly fee for different levels of product: they can borrow streaming-only content or a varying number of DVDs in addition to streaming content. Private citizens pay private cash in order to access the goods. It’s not equitable and it’s not meant to be.
. . . .
Libraries — at least public libraries in the U.S. and Canada — are not private companies. Their goals are not on profit and not built upon those who can afford to pay for the services. Rather, public libraries are one of the few institutions where any and all citizens, regardless of their income or abilities to pay, may receive equitable access and service. It doesn’t matter whether you park a Ferrari or a used car in the library parking lot or you walk or take public transit to the library. When you walk in that door, you are treated equally and you are able to do and access the same things as everyone else (minor restrictions apply based on individual libraries, but those are special cases and not the norm).
It is not the goal of the library to make money. Nor is it the goal of the library to create levels of service so that those who can afford to indulge will receive more while those who can’t, don’t. Instead, libraries work to ensure their services reach as many facets of their community as possible. Libraries want to offer what they can to those who have nothing and those who maybe have everything.
The library is the center and the heart of community.
. . . .
Did you know you can walk into a public library and ask for book recommendations? Maybe you’ve seen a print list here or there or you’ve seen that your library has a complicated-looking database that’s supposed to help you find your next book. But librarians — those who work at a reference or reader’s advisory or help desk — are trained to help people find their next books. This is the bread-and-butter of libraries: meeting with patrons, talking with them, and matching them up with what it is they’re looking for, be it a novel about females traveling in space or children’s book that could only be remembered by an obscure element of a cover once seen twenty years ago.
Rather than look at data and offer some suggestions, librarians know how to ask questions to you, the reader, in order to pair you with the exact right next reads. They can ask not just what you’ve liked or didn’t like in the past. They can ask you what you’re in the mood for right now. They can ask you whether you’ve tried this book or that and from there, they can offer you custom suggestions that are built upon your specific tastes — not just the tastes of other people who’ve happened to enjoy horror or thrillers. You aren’t a piece of data that can be neatly stacked and shifted. Your tastes are yours and yours alone, and there is that just right book out there for you. Librarians know how to hook you and that book up personally.
Link to the rest at BookRiot