Public Libraries: The Compromise

by Rebecca Tischler, Head Editor, INALJ Tennessee

Public Libraries: The Compromise

rebecca I recently read an article on the MacLean’s website called, “Thanks for the Tip, I’ll Get It on Amazon,” by  Brian Bethune, which explained that even though bookstores are having problems with sales, people still come into the stores to browse, or to ask for help on reader’s advisory.  Bethune says that physical bookstores can’t compete with the low prices of the online stores, but the online retailers can’t compete with the guidance that the employees can provide, or with the immersive browsing experience.  So, the online retailers are trying to find alternative ways to provide advice and immersive browsing in order to compete with the bookstores.


One of the main examples is, of course, Amazon.  In their attempt to compete, they have created areas on their website that suggest books similar to the ones you are examining, and they also provide suggestions based on your purchase history.  Unfortunately, your purchase history may include gifts, assignments, continuing education, and books you’ve discovered that you don’t like.  But, Amazon has also included areas to provide reviews and forums for people to discuss their favorite books, and they’ve also purchased the website Goodreads.  The major problem with this is that many of the reviewers may be hired to post glowing reviews, which means that the customer can’t tell which reviews or comments are real.  So far, online retailers just can’t compete with the service that bookstores can provide, even if the bookstores can’t compete with the prices.


However, I find it highly ironic that everyone seems to forget about the libraries in this debate about price vs. service.  Most libraries allow patrons to borrow books, audio books, cds, ebooks, and movies for free.  The public library can also provide free family and academic programs as well as access to the internet, which in our society, has become necessary in order to apply for jobs, to do homework, etc.


So not only are public libraries providing these services at extraordinarily low prices (usually for free), the library also has a physical location with thousands of books for both research and pleasure through which patrons can browse.  They can come to the library for reader’s advisory assistance, and talk to people who can give personal recommendations tailored to the patron’s desires and can provide troubleshooting with technology.  The public library is the compromise between the online retailers and the physical bookstores; low prices with personal service.


Public Libraries are the best of both worlds, and we need to advertise ourselves as such.  We need to let people know about our services, about our programs, and about our books.  We need to let people know that we are here.


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


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