Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gardens and Forests? Two perspectives on archival outreach

Yet another MIS paper, the last for my 'Archives, Advocacy and Outreach' course, taught by Wendy Duff. For this paper we were asked to compare and contrast 'user-centred' and 'materials-centred' approaches to outreach.

The only constant in this world is change. However, from my limited knowledge of archives, change in that world seems at a pace slower than most. And probably for good reason. The core archival theories guiding acquisition, appraisal, description and preservation currently serve their purpose, and on the most part, serve it well. Yet there is a missing but equally important element: the ‘global south’ of archives that is outreach.
Outreach, also known as public programming, is one way that archives create awareness and promote use through things like public events, physical or online exhibitions, and educational or in-school workshops (to name but a few). Unfortunately, this aspect of archival work is either viewed as not important by some repositories, or they simply do not have the time or funds to spare. For many archives outreach is like a mid-winter tropical sojourn, a nice thought, but often unattainable.
 In spite of these difficulties, a change in perspective on archival outreach has come to the fore in the last 20-30 years. Writers such as Elsie Freeman, Randall Jimerson, Timothy Ericson, and others, have been pushing outreach to the forefront of archival theory. At the frontline of this push is the user, with an increased focus on their search techniques and their current (rather than future) needs. This user-centred approach not so much departs from the traditional archival viewpoint, but places emphasis on one of its key components: use.
However this change is far from accepted in the archival world. Writers such as Terry Cook—while supporting improvements in outreach—warns that taken to the extreme, a focus on the user instead of a focus on the records themselves could have dire consequences for the archival profession. For Cook, it is a matter of the message outreach conveys, and that message has to be the value of the record in its context.
Both the user-focus of Ericson, and the materials-focus of Cook, has important repercussions for archives and archival theory—not only in outreach, but the way records are used, and how they are appraised. It is these two facets of archival theory that concerns archivists such as Cook, and the focus of this text.

“The archival profession has fallen short of the mark in promoting archival materials…” writes Ericson in Archivaria 31, “…it is the inevitable afterthought” (Ericson, 1990/91, p.114, 116). Archivists have become “preoccupied with our own gardens, and too little aware of the larger historical and social landscape around us” (Ham, 1981, as cited in Ericson, p.115). As a result, the promotion and use of archives for current users (and non-users) is far from what it could be.
According to Ericson and a number of others writing about outreach, this neglect of the record’s use, and those who use them, is the result of outreach playing second fiddle to acquisition and description. “Availability and use are last…when, in fact, they should be first. This may seem like a minor point, but the consequences are insidious. Outreach and use come last… something to be undertaken when all the rest of the work has been done” (Ericson, p.116). Naturally, when time and funding is stretched, those at the bottom of the archival ladder (such as outreach) suffer.
If the purpose of preserving archival materials is so that they will be used (Eriscon, p.114), then outreach should be tied to an archive’s mission statement, and sit alongside (or even in front) of other archival principles:

the goal is use. We need continually to remind ourselves of this fact. Identification, acquisition, description and the rest are simply the means we use to achieve this goal. They are tools. We may employ all these tools skilfully; but if, after we brilliantly and meticulously appraise, arrange, describe and conserve our records, nobody comes to use them, then we have wasted out time (Ericson, p.117).

This shift towards outreach and the user is what Malbin describes as being user-centred: “the increasingly widespread, mostly American school, which favours a user-centred approach,” including user-friendly finding aids and indexes arranged by subject (1997, p.70). According to this school, archivists should concentrate on ‘translating’ archival theory (such as provenance) into a form more understandable to the typical user’s needs (Malbin, p.70).
Lowrence Dowler echoes this trend: “use, rather than the form of material, is the basis on which archival practice and theory ought to be constructed” (1988, as cited in Cook, p.125). The value of records and the information they contain is not in the record’s context, but in “the relationship between the use of information and the ways in which it is or can be provided” (1988, as cited in Cook, p.125). It is this relationship that should define archival practice.
But for archivists such as Terry Cook, this shift in archival theory could undermine both it “and the very richness of that documentary heritage” which outreach would make available (Cook, 1990/91, p.123). Cook’s fears are not in making archives more accessible (something he supports), but in extending a user-centred approach to the two main archival functions of appraisal and description—in other words, what we keep, and how it will be found by the user. According to Cook, rather than making records instantly available, outreach needs to ensure the right message is being delivered. That message is the unique value of the record when viewed through the lens of archival theory.
This view represents a materials-centred approach, and arguably the dominant discourse of archival theory. For Cook, “archives are not just collections of individual documents but, rather, a blend of what is in all of them” (Malbin, p.71). Knowledge is gained through the record’s richness, the contextual significance of the record, and the collections in which they are found. Rather than “focusing on that isolated tree,” archivists, through educating users on the power of provenance, should lead their users “through the grand archival forest, with all its fascinating paths and interesting byways” (Cook, p.128).
 Cook argues that the key principles of archival theory—provenance, original order, context and the like—imply “a sense of understanding, of ‘knowledge,’ rather than the merely efficient retrieval of names, dates, subjects, or whatever, all devoid of context, that is ‘information’” (Cook, 1984/85, as cited in Cook, p.128). Records do not simply provide facts and figures, but offer a unique insight into the creator of the record and the larger society to which they belong. Treating a record as containing mere data or information negates its archival value.
Cook is concerned that if outreach is promoted at the expense of archival theory, then the current and future use of records is threatened. A user-centred approach to appraisal, while increasing service for today’s users, could be to the detriment of future use. And while outreach should not “be the tail unthinkingly following the appraisal and description dog, it is no healthier that [outreach] should wag the entire archival dog” (Cook, p.127).

There is no question that outreach should be prime and centre in the role of an archive. As well as ensuring that our cultural heritage is accessed by a wide variety of people in order to create new knowledge, outreach is needed for the very existence of archives itself—even more so a neo-liberal world overly concerned with outcomes and profit margins. As Tapscott and Williams, when discussing Web 2.0 and outreach, put it: we must “harness the new collaboration or perish” (2006, as cited in Daines & Nimer, 2009).
Outreach and public programming creates an awareness of the archive and what it does. It can aid current users and act as the catalyst for new ones. Online exhibitions, educational programs in schools, workshops and events, and innovative digital tools that bring archives to the streets (such as being able to text a number and find out information about that street or place), all aid in the use of archival documents. Outreach activities “teach people that archives are places to which they may come for information” (Ericson, p.119).
But does this use come at expense of archival principles? And if so, what knowledge is being gained? For Cook, if outreach is taken to its limit at the expense of the archival message, archives would be turned into “the McDonald’s of Information, where everything is carefully measured to meet every customer profile and every market demographic” (Cook, p.127). This is because ‘information’ and ‘knowledge’ is not the same thing.
In the same issue of Archivaria as Ericson, Cook quotes Theodore Roszak to describe the differences of information and knowledge: “information is not knowledge. You can mass-produce raw data and incredible quantities of facts and figures. You cannot mass-produce knowledge, which is created by individual minds, drawing on individual experience, separating the significant from the irrelevant, making value judgements” (as cited in Cook, p.128). The knowledge gained from records through their original order, their provenance, and an understanding of the societal context in which they were created, is threatened when a record is pulled from its collection and instantly served to the user “on a silver platter” (Cook, p.125). It may service their need, but at a price. That price is archival value.
Instead, archivists need to get back to the records themselves, and to the unique power of provenance. Although difficult for the Google generation to grapple, archival theory on record creation and description is important because of the uniqueness of archives: “archives are not like libraries, nor should they be” (Malbin, p.71). The power of provenance ensures the user is not limited to “a diet of fast food, of quick hits of facts, names and dates without context and without much meaning” (Cook, p.131), but a rich experience of knowledge making.
Cook argues: “every user from the genealogist looking for a single fact or a copy of a single documents through the most sophisticated researcher using ‘discourse’ methodology would benefit from this materials-centred approach to archives” (Cook, p.130). This is because the retrieval of information is not a logical, analytical and linear process, but a holistic, intuitive and creative one (Ketelaar, 1988, as cited in Cook, p.129). Therefore finding aids structured to the users current needs, or description that caters to subjects only, would hinder the holistic search process, fragment the organic relationships of archives, and endanger a record’s coherence. “In the rush to produce more sophisticated and more comprehensive finding aids better to assist the researcher, turning him or her into a one-minute expert, grave risks presents themselves to archivists and researchers alike” (Cook, p.126). For Cook, these grave risks also include how records would be appraised.

“A deep and dangerous theoretical iceberg,” is how Cook responded to the extension of a user-centred approach to appraisal. For writers such as Freeman, however, it is more a case of bringing records above the surface in order to be used today, rather than a preoccupation with the explorers of tomorrow. Archivists need to “consider less the uses of the future and turn more to identifying the users and uses of today” (Gracy, 1986, as cited in Cook, p.125). Because of this eye on the future, the ‘products’ archives hold “do not supply what users want or, far more important, what they will actually use,” writes Freeman; “a look at how and why users approach records will give us new criteria for appraising records” (1984, as cited in Cook, p.126).
Knowing what the user wants or needs and acquiring records for that purpose, ensures the records are relevant, and above all, used. Archivists should “respond to the needs of users, rather than the expectations of archivists” (Blais & Enn, 1990, as cited in Cook, p.124). Although this would require a “radical rethinking” of archival theory, the advocates of such an approach content that the user, and archives, would benefit—through increased use and increased funding. In all probability, this would lead to an awareness and use of the archives not yet seen in its history.
However for Cook, such an approach is a disaster in the making. “Archivists do not (and should not!) want to acquire labour records this week, women’s diaries next week, or scientific lab reports after that” Cook, p.131). Appraising and collection records should never be based on “trendy consumerism” or the “transient whims of users” (Cook, p.130), because such an approach would destroy the unique value of archives—that is, the accurate reflection of the “functions, ideas and activities or records creators and those with whom they interact” (Cook, p.130).
Having a window on how a society functioned and the values that prevailed through the archival record, is the key to appraisal (and the very function of archives). Acquisition based on current use would provide a fragmented, rather than a holistic view on the period in question. Instead, it is better to develop criteria “to ensure that the records acquired reflect the values, patterns and functions of society today, or for older records, of the society contemporary with the records’ creators” (Cook, p.130). In this way “all kinds of research will be supported” (Cook, p.130).
Cook makes it clear that he is not supporting “cultural elitism” (Cook, p. 131), but ensuring that the uniqueness of records and the insights they provide are not negated by appraisal dictated by transient whims or quick-strike answers. Rather, Cook urges “archivists to step back from being superficial McDonald’s of Information or flashy Disney-Worlds of Heritage Entertainment, and step forward to providing all researchers with relevance, meaning, understanding and knowledge” (Cook, p.131). Because in the end, providing records in context in order to make knowledge is what an archive does best (even if it happens at a snail’s pace).

The seeds of change are taking root in modern archives. A user-centred approach is coming to the fore, lead by American archivists and writers such as Freeman and Ericson. This emphasis on the user and use of records has the potential to change the world of archives—from its public perception to the archival profession itself.
However, whether that change is for the better is open to question. For if change comes at the expense of key archival theory, then is the change worth it? If the goal of archives is facilitating use that makes sense of a particular period in question, and to create knowledge through an understanding of a record’s wider context (rather than accessing mere information), then the jettisoning of key archival theories is problematic, to say the least. Instead, archivists such as Cook reaffirm the power of provenance and a materials-centred approach in the quest for meaning and knowledge.
Perhaps the question archivists should be asking is: “how can we combine outreach with key archival principles, at the expense of neither?” For it is the combination of these components, rather than the privileging of one over another, that could steer change in the most beneficial direction. Instead of disregarding archival principles of provenance, original order, context and the like for more palatable translations for the public, archives—through education and outreach—should promote why such techniques are used, and the unique value they bring to research.
The last word on these two views of outreach goes to Terry Cook (sorry Ericson): “the user should also be led to information about the contextual significance of that document… that is informed public service; that is exciting public programming; that is making archival users knowledgeable rather than loaded down, however efficiently, with facts and copies of detached documents floating around devoid of context” (Cook, p.131).


Cook, T. (1990/91). Viewing the world upside down: Reflections on the theoretical underpinning of archival public programming. Archivaria, 31 (Winter), 123-134.

Daines, J.G., & Nimer, C.L. (18 May, 2009). Web 2.0 and archives. Accessed 12 May 2011 from http://interactivearchivist.archivists.org/

Ericson, T. L. (1990/91). Preoccupied with our own gardens: Outreach and archivists. Archivaria, 31 (Winter), 114-122.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Update: Justseeds blog post


By Dylan Miner over at the justseeds.org blog: Justseeds' friend and proprietor of Garage Collective, Jared Davidson has recently completed his manuscript for Remains to be Seen: Tracing Joe Hill's Ashes in New Zealand. Although not out yet, this amazing book studies the IWW in Aotearoa and looks specifically at what happens to Hill's ashes once they were shipped following his execution in Utah.

Jared asked me to do the cover illustration, which I happily obliged. Keep your eyes open for this which should be released by Rebel Press in the near future. Also, keep your eyes to Justseeds for this print becoming available for purchase.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fee or free: Public library services in the face of economic hardship

Another essay for MIS. I think the economic section would be rather different if I had more space to bring in an anarchist critique of economics... maybe next time. Image by Mary Tremonte (http://justseeds.org).


As neo-liberal economics and the downward cycles of the capitalist system deepen, social institutions such as public libraries are beginning to come under the increasing scrutiny of those in power. Questions around free library services have crescendoed in parts of the developed world, and are beginning to reverberate throughout the offices of policy makers in New Zealand. In April 2010, the Tauranga City Council announced that it was exploring the introduction of user-charges for general issue books. Green MP, Gareth Hughes, quickly pointed out the irony of such an announcement coming during the United Nation’s Literacy Decade (Hughes, 2010, par.4). But irony doesn’t concern the powers that be in their quest for profits. So what arguments can be made for free public libraries the face of increasing economic hardship?

Advocates of user-charges often draw upon economic perspectives to justify their position. Yet the services and benefits of a public library cannot always be measured in purely economic terms. In response, the defenders of free public libraries often talk about its benefits in terms of their impact on society. Far from abstract or philosophical ideals without any bearing on everyday life, the social benefits of a free public library include equal access to information, and the building of community, social inclusion and social capital through a free public space. These benefits also have economic ramifications, as advocates of free public libraries are increasingly trying to illustrate.

The negative impact user-charges would have on society at large—or more specifically, the access to information, democratic participation, social wellbeing and economic activity—makes a strong social and economic case against the introduction of user-charges.


‘Free’ in New Zealand means “free access to the collections and information held by the library, free membership to LTA residents who already fund the library through rates, and the right to borrow library materials free of charge, except when those materials are due” (Chamberlain & Chamberlain, 2007, p.69). For most libraries, this is still the case. However over a quarter of New Zealand libraries have fees beyond the traditional costs of membership (usually the cost of the plastic membership card): “in Matamata, borrowers have to pay $1 a week to rent ordinary non-bestseller books” (Campbell, 2010, par.1). Advocates of user-charges would like to see this trend extended to most, if not all, public library services.

The introduction of user-charges can partly be explained by the prevailing values of Neo-liberalism: “policies and processes whereby a relative handful of private interests are permitted to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit. This includes the management and provision of social services” (McChesney, 1999, par.1).

As a result, advocates of user-charges often view library services and their benefits in a strictly economic sense—a supply and demand model where a customer (user) should be able to choose the information commodities and services they deem valuable, at a cost set by the market. Following this, “advocates of a ‘user pays’ philosophy believe that charges will indicate true levels of demand” (Chamberlain & Chamberlain, 2007, p.69), and that price is a measure of value (Casper, 1979, p.304).

However the business world of returns and maximum profits conflict with the social values of a free public library. Creativity, freedom, altruism and equality—although often imprecise and hard to measure— are “no less valid” (Smith, 1981, p.2). In contrast to the library as a place to purchase information commodities, advocates of the free public library hold that:

the publicly funded library… despite some current tendencies which have identified it as a purely recreational service… is the collective memory of our society and is part and parcel of the complex organization which feeds the culture through service to the individual. (Smith, 1981, p.7).

Yet modern libraries do more than just feed culture. Public libraries of today “engage, inspire and inform citizens and help build strong communities” by incorporating “community gathering places with cafés, associated council services, learning centres, lounge areas, community meeting rooms and parenting rooms” (Local Government of New Zealand, Library and Information Association of New Zealand, National Library of New Zealand [LGNZ, LIANZ, NLNZ], 2006, p.8). These are services unique to libraries not often found elsewhere.

Advocates of user-charges argue people should not pay for something they do not use—that libraries are for the benefit of the few (Casper, 1979). However the services provided by libraries are being used more frequently and by more people than ever before. In a New Zealand survey of cultural activities and spending, “public libraries were the second most popular cultural activity,” behind the purchasing of books (LGNZ, LIANZ, NLNZ, 2006, p.9). In times of economic hardship, use has increased even more. 81% of economically impacted Americans have a library card, are 50% more likely to visit their library at least weekly, and are nearly a third more likely to visit at least once a month (OCLC, 2010). During economic hardship, belief in the value of the public library to the community also increased by over 31% (OCLC, 2010, p.45).

When charges have been introduced, “the use of the library has declined so dramatically that some charges have been withdrawn or reduced” (Chamberlain & Chamberlain, 2007, p.70). In Ashburton user-charges were cancelled due a drop in patronage of around 40% (Campbell, 2010, par.16). User-charges directly affect access, which in turn, affects the use of library services and their social and economic benefits.


The neo-liberal paradigm ignores the benefits of modern (and future) libraries that cannot be measured in monetary terms, and threatens the values on which libraries were founded: equal access to information. The ability to freely access information is the cornerstone of a healthy and just society. “People, communities, and organizations need, for their physical, mental, democratic, and economic wellbeing, free access to information…” (LGNZ, LIANZ, NLNZ, 2006, p.7). Public libraries fulfil this need, and are a key part of ‘information democracy’ (LGNZ, LIANZ, NLNZ, 2006).

User-charges erode the fundamental right to participation in democratic life, by limiting the information needed for participation to those who can afford it. Dressed up in the rhetoric of choice, charges as a level of demand and price as a measure of value masks the fact that there are major socio-economic differences between the users (and non-users) of libraries. Two-thirds of New Zealanders earn less than two-thirds of the average wage, while the gap between rich and poor is the sixth biggest in the developed world (Oosterman, 2010).

A person’s income has an overwhelming impact on the access and use of library services. Mathews confirmed, “…the socio-economic status of the surrounding population is the most important factor in determining how much use will be made of the public library” (2001, p.3). Users with higher levels of income frequented the library more than others with lower incomes.

Income is also the major contributing factor to the digital divide—the gap between those with access to computers, the Internet, and online information and those who lack it (Warschauer, 2010, p.1551). A US study found that only 55% of those with household incomes under $30,000 used the Internet, compared to 93% of those over $75,000 (Warshauer, 2010, p.1551). In New Zealand, “lower-income households remain less likely than higher income households to use the Internet” (Bell et al, 2009, p.3).

The availability of information addresses these disadvantages, “by ensuring free and equitable access to collections for all community members” (NSW Public Library Network [NSWPLN], 2009, p.8). Through the Aotearoa People’s Network Kakaroa (APNK), libraries in New Zealand have successfully filled this role—facilitating participation in the democratic process, increasing library usage, and combating the digital divide by providing free access to computers and the Internet. A 2011 APNK Impact Evaluation found that 39% of those surveyed had visited their local council’s website at the library, people using the libraries increased by over 80%, and for 42% of the respondents, the public library was their only means of accessing the Internet (Brocklesby & Simpson-Edwards, 2011, pp.4, 5, 34).

It is clear that if user-charges were introduced, not everyone could afford to access information. Monetary barricades in the form of user-charges affects those already marginalised, and continues the physical and digital division of society along socio-economic lines. It would silence the voice of the ‘have-nots’ in the participation of democracy, and compromise the valuable role libraries play as the providers of information—both on site and online.


As public spaces are increasingly privatised the need for a free public space is more pressing than ever before, especially for those excluded from social participation. Libraries provide a warm, inviting—and most importantly—non-commercial space that fosters social inclusion and community development, regardless of socio-economic status. The library as a ‘third’ space is a crucial factor for such development.

A survey of users in New South Wales found “the library’s value as a place that is a safe, harmonious, welcoming and inclusive environment was the most quoted contribution [to social wellbeing]” (NSWPLN, 2009, p.8). By acting as a neutral meeting space accessible to all, libraries promote acceptance and understanding of others not often found elsewhere.

Even in the digital age, the “online library has not become a substitute for visiting the library in person” (OCLC, 2010, p.97). This is because “the library building—the way it is designed, located, configured and maintained—has real significance in creating a welcoming and stimulating environment” (LGNZ, LIANZ, NLNZ, 2006, p.40).

The physical space of the library creates “social interaction among people with common interests who may never otherwise meet” (NSWPLN, 2009, p.8). This is of special value for immigrants and ethnic groups for aiding community participation and integration. Multicultural programs, reading and parent groups, literacy courses, literary events and exhibitions encourage interaction and wellbeing by creating social capital—the connections between people that improve quality of life and provide ‘life-chances’. Social capital also has economic benefits: “hhealthier lifestyles, and higher levels of educational attainment… in turn helps promote economic development” (Horton, 2006, p.504).

The uniqueness of the library as a free public space is illustrated by what happens when that space is no longer available. “One study in England that examined the impact of the closing of public libraries due to a strike determined that although nine out of ten users missed the library, only 9 percent replaced their library use with nonlibrary-oriented activities (Mathews, 2001, p.69). The library was missed because it was “a meeting point… a place to participate in social events [and] to meet or chat to people” (Proctor, Sobczyk, & Usherwood, 1996, p.27). For many, the library as a free social space is simply non-replaceable.

If “the overall social health of a society reflects the strength of voluntary and community associations within it” (Horton, 2006, as cited in Selwood, 2002, p.30), the libraries role in creating social capital should not be hindered by user-charges. They would alienate and eliminate a large number of users, especially new migrants or economically impacted individuals with a real need for such a space.


Social institutions are constantly under the neo-liberal axe, especially in times of economic hardship. Funding is cut and libraries are closed, because in neo-liberal terms, they are financially unviable. However, evidence of a positive return on investment and the creation of economic activity illustrate that libraries are indeed economically sound.

Studies have shown that patronage of a public library significant aids the surrounding retail economy. One retailer noted a 10% increase in turnover after a library was established nearby, while another estimated library users spent $50 in their store per library visit (Brown & Morris, 2004, p.132). Library closures also have economic consequences. During the Sheffield Libraries strike, nearly a quarter of all users surveyed visited their local centre less often because of the library closure (Proctor, Sobczyk, & Usherwood, 1996, p.37).

A 2008 summary of Wisconsin Public libraries found they contributed $753,699,545 to the Wisconsin economy (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction [WDPI], 2008). This figure does not include the range of economic benefits that arise from social interaction at a library due to the difficulty of measuring such benefits. The surrounding retail economy is also not included. If they had, the libraries economic contribution would be considerably larger. Far from a liability, the summary also found that return on investment was $4.06 for each dollar of taxpayer spent on libraries (WDPI, 2008),

A 2009 survey of New South Wales users found public libraries generated $810.2 million of economic activity—the equivalent of $2.82 for every dollar expended (NSWPLN, 2009). Benefits included supporting local businesses through access to information, increased tourism via library events, and employment for both library staff and those seeking it: the “survey found that 8.1% of respondents credited the public library as helping them obtain a new job or promotion and that 14% credited the public library as making them more productive in their jobs” (NSWPLN, p.10). Like Wisconsin libraries, these benefits equate to a return of investment of $4.24 per dollar spent (NSWPLN, 2009).

Free libraries stimulate and support the economic development needed in times of economic hardship. A decline in patronage due to user-charges would have significant economic effects, both directly (the surrounding retail economy) and less-directly (the wider economy). Libraries also save the taxpayer money: “in the event that public libraries did not exist, it was estimated that annual expenditure on government school libraries would increase by $24.4 million” (NSWPLN, 2009, p.10).


Neo-liberal attempts to control and profit from social institutions conflict with the social values of the free public library and the benefits of its unique services. As a result, the introduction of user-charges in times of economic hardship would have a number of dire consequences—both socially and economically.

The access and use of library services currently enjoyed by those with lower incomes would be severely curtailed, minimizing democratic participation and fostering socio-economic divisions already prevalent in society. The privileging of monetary transactions and the move towards libraries as a commercial space also compromises the free and neutral public meeting space needed for social wellbeing. Introducing user-charges would also diminish the economic benefits of the library due to lower patronage.

Libraries are a core social service with wider benefits than monetary returns. Instead of a business model concerned with increased profit margins:

measurement of social institutions should encompass the extent to which they deliver superior performance, make a distinctive impact, and achieve lasting endurance. These measures are ones that rely little on how much or how often or who owns what, and rely not at all on becoming “more like a business” (Wilson, 2007, as cited in Collins, 2005).

It is clear free public libraries make a distinctive impact—on those who use them, and the communities who have them. It is also clear user-charges would have a distinctive impact—for all the wrong reasons.

—Jared Davidson


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