free to access, free to lend, free to read

15 September 2014

City of Santa Monica won't mend their lending ways

The City of Santa Monica, CA and their fee-to-lend library have refused to rescind their subscription based policies. Reluctantly, today we have been forced to appeal to the publishers and licensors of the Library's collection and computing software systems to demand that the City of Santa Monica account for all lending and usage. Based on this accounting we have asked that the rights holders require their rightful royalty payments from the City of Santa Monica from the subscription and usage fees the City is collecting.

Our hope is that the considerable cost of the accounting and then the royalty payments to the publishers and licensors will cause the City to abandon this foolish and elitist tact of abandoning the American system of Free to Lend Public Libraries. For every book, every DVD, every CD, and every magazine there is a payment due to a rights holder. For every webpage, for every flash video, for every browser processed line of html, every document downloaded, and every email read - the Library collects a fee and so must pay the licensor.

It is ridiculous that the City and the Library ever chose to transfer the responsibility of their mismanaged pension obligations to the poor and working people of Southern California. Transfered the weight of their financial commitments to the thousands of minimum wage workers (and their families) who staff Santa Monica's hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments and who are denied free access to lending and internet access.

The letter to the publishers, generally, is as follows:

Recently the City of Santa Monica, California abandoned the American free-to-lend public library system and instituted a discriminatory subscription based system not seen in this country for over a century. If a member of the public is unable to produce proof of Santa Monica residency they must now pay a rental subscription fee for lending privileges and a daily fee to use “public” computers. 
Efforts to reverse this un-American policy have been ignored by the Santa Monica City Council. 
You are no doubt as bewildered and shocked by these actions as I was. I hope, as you considered these actions, you are as outraged as I have come to be. 
Santa Monica uses illegal redlining criteria to deny access. No exceptions to these subscription fees are even made for the thousands of southern California residents that work in the City’s substantial number of hotels, restaurants, and retail. No exceptions are made for these worker’s families. 
I strongly suspect that the City of Santa Monica has not been making payments to you out of the fees it is pocketing, has no accounting in place to calculate such amounts due you, and has not sought your permission to violate their usage agreement for the materials you sold and licensed them. 
You may know that the first circulating libraries in North America were private libraries that collected fees for membership and lending from which royalties were paid to publishers . It should be no surprise that the first circulating libraries were owned and/or operated by publishers. 
If there is any action any community could take to delineate the life of the haves and the haves not, truly the City of Santa Monica has taken it. Please join me in holding the City of Santa Monica accountable for discriminating against the greater Los Angeles working public.  Require that they account for fee based lending and information technology use. Demand that they make appropriate payments to your organization. Leave them no choice but to return to the centuries-old American Public Library system of free use and free lending. 
Thank you for your time, consideration, and efforts.

City of Santa Monica City Council
1685 Main St #200
Santa Monica, CA
(310) 393-9975

12 September 2014

A Letter to City Hall

        Gleam Davis, City Councilperson
        Kevin McKeown, City Councilperson
        Pam O'Connor, City Mayor
        Robert Holbrook, City Councilperson
        Ted Winterer, City Councilperson
        Terry O'Day, City Councilperson
        Tony Vazquez, City Councilperson
        Rod Gould, City Manager

25 August 2014

Recently you adopted discriminatory lending and access practices at the Santa Monica Public Library through subscription and use fees for materials, equipment, and services charged to the public who cannot produce evidence of Santa Monica residency. This policy fundamentally violates the principles and understanding of the American Public Library system of the free to access, free to lend, and free to read standard that the Los Angeles County and American public expects and demands and that the industry maintains throughout the state of California and this country.

Your policy violates the letter and spirit of much of the public and private funding that the City of Santa Monica has eagerly taken to construct facilities, obtain holdings, create and upgrade infrastructure, purchase equipment, and fund staff and staff endeavors today and in the recent past. Your policy profoundly violates the American right of equal opportunity and denies access to the thousands of service employees and their families of Los Angeles County that work in Santa Monica. Your policy compounds the disproportionate financial burden on all lower-economic status residents of Los Angeles County through the addition of these improper use fees on top of a variety of taxes already collected and paid to Santa Monica.

Please correct this policy of redlining immediately and begin the process of refunding all fees collected through this policy in the immediate future.


25 August 2014

A Short History of American Public Libraries

Circulating Libraries, funded and operated by booksellers and publishers, started in the United States in the 18th century. In 1731 Benjamin Franklin and a group of associates started the for-profit Library Company of Philadelphia in a private residence. After contributing a membership buy-in, members were sold and lent – for a fee – materials.

Soon thereafter these lending libraries began charging subscription fees on a yearly, quarterly, or monthly basis without the required membership buy-in or per lending fee. As is still true today with materials of a variety of media, a portion of the sale, rental, or subscription fee was paid as a royalty to the publisher.

By 1820 the first free lending libraries began to appear with donated and purchased general and specialized collections such as the collections of the Apprentices’ Library, also in Philadelphia. Members, restricted to white males, studied to raise themselves up through continued education.

The first of the modern Circulating Library, in a major urban community, as we know it today was opened in Boston in 1854. Free to all, free to lend Circulating Libraries were funded through taxes and donations. As the opportunity to read on any day is catch-as-catch-can, lending of materials was and is critical to the working class pursuit of education and enrichment.

Even in Boston, however, these libraries were not free to all. Membership was difficult if not impossible for undesirables and without membership there was no access. Undesirables consisted of people of color, certain immigrant populations, people employed in positions of ill repute (according to good people), et al.

These denials of access to people of color were institutionalized throughout the south. In many states, for an educator or a student, it was still illegal to teach a person of color to write. Teaching or learning to read was seen as violating the spirit of the law in those southern states and the community standards throughout many of the other states. This, of course, meant no access to many libraries.

It would be decades before people of color could access common community library facilities throughout the northern states. It would be decades more before separate “black libraries” of the modern circulating library type were available in larger communities in the south. Decades more would pass before separate but equal was struck down and then decades more before unencumbered access.

Free to all, free to read, and free to lend is the fundamental principle of the American Public Library systems.