There’s an Amazon-like corporation trying to take over public libraries


After tons of backlash on social media, Forbes has deleted an op-ed by an economist who argued that public libraries should be replaced by Amazon. The argument was so absurd that whoever runs the San Francisco Public Library’s Twitter dismissed it with a joke: “Maybe @Forbes doesn’t like that you can download their magazine free with your #SF library card.”

Yet the argument isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. Public libraries across the country are dealing with their own sort of Amazon, a growing corporation slowly gulping up competition while being run by Jeff Bezos-like wealthy investors.

With 82 branches across six states, Library Systems & Services (LS&S) is the country’s third-largest library system, smaller than only Chicago and New York City. It pitches itself to towns and counties by making many of the same arguments in the op-ed. That libraries aren’t “innovative” enough without the corporation’s management and “social entrepreneurship.” That it can help libraries become a “third place” between work and home — as if they weren’t already just that for many poor and working people.

Like Amazon, LS&S slashes employee pay and benefits to turn a profit while shrouding its dealings in secrecy. Last year, it was hit with nearly $70,000 in penalties for wage and hour violations. In 2016, an audit of one of its libraries in Oregon revealed that 28 percent of the public money paid to the corporation was filed under the ominous category of “other,” unknown even to public officials.

Read more here.

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