Your Name and Title: John Wenzler, Associate Dean of Digital Futures


Library, School, or Organization Name: San Jose State University


Area of the World from Which You Will Present: California


Language in Which You Will Present: English


Target Audience(s): Anyone interested in how and why libraries are funded.


Short Session Description (one line):

This presentation will ask the question: "Should the Government pay for Library Services?" and explore some ways of answering it.


Full Session Description (as long as you would like):

The presentation will use ideas from economic theory to investigate the political, moral, and philosophical justifications for using tax dollars to pay for services in libraries (either academic or public). In the 21st century, librarians need to think hard about how and why we deserve public subsidies because automatic support for publicly funded libraries has waned. The political mood in the United States has become less conducive to public funding for libraries as many citizens have grown skeptical about government spending of any kind. During the last 30 years, state funding for academic libraries has declined consistently as states have reduced funding for public universities, and advocates for public libraries consistently worry about their future.  Furthermore, the Internet revolution, which has transformed how libraries operate, tends to make people re-consider fundamental assumptions about the value and purpose of libraries. 


In times like these, it makes sense to investigate the deeper logic beneath our assumptions about the value of libraries so that we can respond creatively to critics. I don't pretend that my presentation will definitely answer the question that I ask, but I hope that it will provoke discussion and stimulate debate by approaching the question from an angle that differs from what we read in much of the library literature.

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