It pays to be free

There are plenty of arguments against libraries providing all their services for free: services that are free at the point of delivery are said to be undervalued and encourage users to behave irresponsibly. At the same time, rules mean that libraries are free some of the time, but not for everyone, and not for all their holdings. The author lays out some simple calculations to demonstrate that while making users pay a subscription fee undeniably brings money in, this should be measured against the relative significance of the fees in the library’s overall budget. It should also be taken into account that all experiments with providing a completely free service have shown that introducing charges represents a barrier – in some cases a considerable one – to users. Libraries should always be public services and should never seek to make profits.