The biggest issue with equating the library with a Netflix for books is that it sends a false message that libraries are worth little more than $8 or $12 or $20 a month. That the services offered in libraries are little more than options to which people can subscribe, rather than actual services anyone can utilize at any time.
When the library is made to be seen as a business, rather than the heart of a community or a fundamental service made possible through citizen-approved tax dollars, it makes the library expendable. That expendability then moves down the chain: staff salaries get cut, then staff withers, then more programs and projects that benefit the community — books and movies and CDs and magazines and newspapers and wifi and computer access and database subscriptions and programs for all shapes, colors, and sizes of people — disappear, too. It detracts from the unique aspects that make a library what it is: a place for all, rather than a place for some.
Libraries reach out where Netflix reaches in.”
Although many librarians may be understandably new to the topic of online surveillance, information professionals are not new to defending intellectual freedom and the right to read and voice dissenting opinions, as well as the rights of historically marginalized people who continue to be under the most surveillance.
Librarians are known for refusing requests from local law enforcement soliciting details on user browsing and borrowing records. The ALA has counted privacy among its core values since 1939, recognizing it as essential to free speech and intellectual freedom. And the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions is a signatory on the Thirteen International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. As Kade Crockford puts it, “Perhaps more than anyone in our society, librarians represent the values that make a democracy strong, intellectual freedom foremost among them.””