Careful towns of the world out there… before you spend lots of money on new or revamped libraries. Unless you are in a city, or near a walkable and vibrant town center, they are a tough sell, even with cheap $3.50/gasoline. And how long will that last?
Here’s the math for me in suburban MA:
- Distance to library: 5.2 miles. 10.4 miles round trip
- Our minivan — let’s say I get 20.8 MPG to make the math simple.
10.4 miles * 1/20.8 MPG * $3.50 $/gallon = $1.75 per trip assuming there is no overlap with other errands, which is likely given the route.
And that’s just the cost of the gas of course. If you use the ~$0.50/mi that the US government uses for taxes for business mileage (accounting for the full cost of ownership) then that’s 10.4 miles * $0.50/mi = $5.20 per trip.
And then add in the cost of the time. Let’s say 20 minutes of driving.
It’s a tough sell. Not just the library. All of suburbia. It’s ultimately kinda in serious doo-doo, ain’t it? James Howard Kunstler is probably on to something.
Counter-points and followups:
1) I say all the above as someone who has LOVED libraries in the past. But I guess the difference was: 1) that was pre-interweb and 2) that was libraries I walked to or rode my bike to (the Amherst Jones Library, and the UMass/Amherst Dubois library)
2) I am fond of the idea of the library being a “town center” that is more about ideas and people than being about media (paper or digital). Related concepts are Sudbury Schools, the Transition Town movement (tool sharing, etc), Cohousing.
3) The article linked below talks about “Library as Platform” which to me is basically acknowledging that there are increasing numbers of private services we use which “out do” libraries in terms of connecting us with media. Amazon. Google Books. Goodreads. “The Library” *could* do all of that. But how?
4) PS. And what about all those duplicate public school libraries! What a shame! What if all the schools in town were clustered around the town’s libraries and they all shared! I know, I know… one can’t turn back the clock on sprawling suburban development. It’s just sorta a shame.
5) Speaking of poorly designed public resources… I’ll talk about the placement and design of playgrounds sometime soon. Ugh. Almost always another huge missed opportunity. But there are some good ones!