By Mitchell

March 30, 2023

The opinions expressed below are the author’s and not those of any other entity including the one allowing me to post them. They are contrarian, but the purpose of expressing such views is to provoke the reader to thought and to ask questions such as:

Why can the government take my money and do things with it that I don’t support or need?

Or, if you think the government should take your money to provide services to other people, you should ask the question:

Are THEY getting YOUR money’s worth? It’s not your money anymore so you can’t ask if YOU are getting YOUR money’s worth.

It’s OK for the reader to be publicly appalled at my opinions. And it is OK to agree privately or even publicly with some or all of them.

Be sure to separate FACTS from opinion. The items in quotes are facts. Likely biased ones, but they are all we’ve got. We don’t have the ability to gather many facts personally, so we need to depend on others for them. Follow the links to get more facts and read other opinions.


I believe that public libraries have outlived their usefulness for DECADES. Since the late 1990s there just isn’t any reason for there to be public libraries since virtually all books and printed materials are now available electronically. My reasons for that conclusion are partly covered in the following. My “solution” and additional explanation are far more paradigm-shifting. (Bam! My annual reference to “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” One book I was required to read in college but didn’t.)

I’m sure there are more accurate statistics about Public Libraries. (As opposed to Public School or Academic libraries.) For the following example, I’ve used what I can find about the Greenville County Library System (GCLS).

“These days, Greenville County property taxes provide the main source for the library’s $20 million annual (2021) budget; for a home assessed at, say, $100,000, levies to support and collect all that knowledge amount to $7.50 a year— even cheaper than a super-sized fast-food hamburger.”

I’m not sure why they calculate the numbers that way. Well, I do. They SOUND very reasonable and make people FEEL good.

But even with those low numbers, a family of three (a single mom with only two children) could buy several used books a year and share them with neighbors. Search for “Little Free Library” to learn how to do that.

That $20,000,000 a year budget is ACTUALLY $37.50 for EACH of the estimated 533,834 (2021) residents of Greenville County.

Note: The FY 2024 Budget is proposed to be $24 million. 20% MORE. Instead of recalculating all my numbers, I’ll ask this question: Why not REDUCE the property tax rate by 20% and allow people to keep more of their OWN money to use as they wish?

That same family of three could buy FIVE times the number of books of that “reasonable” $7.50 including some special “for your eyes only” birthday and Christmas books if they were allowed to keep their own money.

“In 2021, the average American read 12.6 books over the course of the year, down from the average of 15.6 books per year back in 2016. Last year’s rate of reading was the lowest in two decades, while the highest came in 1999, when Americans reported reading 18.5 different titles in one year’s time. Sep 19, 2022”,titles%20in%20one%20year’s%20time..

I didn’t believe that for a minute. And my gut, as usual, is right.

“Statistically, averages are useful but are heavily skewed by outliers. The median is the mathematical breaking point for a statistical group, with roughly half of all numbers sitting above or below it. The median for the 2016 study and the better indicator of the average reader in America is four. The average American reader reads four books each year. Feeling better about your TBR pile now, aren’t you?”

“It’s never been more expensive to operate a library 

  • Average operating expenses per library is $765,715 up more than 17.00% since 2014
  • Libraries costs are more administrative than ever – 89.18% spent on staff and other expenses vs only 10.82% on library collections “

“People are borrowing fewer books

In addition to fewer people visiting libraries, fewer and fewer books are being borrowed each year as seen by the 19.21% decrease in physical collection use to 1.83 billion in 2019.”

Use DOWN 19%, COSTS UP 17%. Does that sound like anyone is getting their money’s worth?

I tried to find the answer to “What percentage of a public library’s books circulate each year?”

Average use / borrows per material per year

Each book in a library’s collection is borrowed an average of 2.29x per year.”

The “borrowed” statistic seems like an answer, but I don’t believe for a second that on average EACH book in a library is checked out 2.29 times per year. Let’s say that 20% of books circulate, which means each of those books is checked out EVERY month. Five times the 2.29 is about 12. You might be able to convince me of that. But that means that 80% of the books, including many new acquisitions, are sitting on shelves gathering dust just in case someone might want to use them.

I couldn’t find a system-wide number for GCLS, but I’m guessing the system has at least one million “books and serial volumes” based on the table below. (Yes, I should just pick up the phone and call the reference desk.)

I find the “Per capita” numbers in the table below suspect. Granted, when I was in elementary school, I would check out the MAXIMUM number of books allowed from my public library at least once a week. I believe that was seven, so I definitely skewed the “mean” average by reading over 350 books a year. I’d be interested to see the “median” and “mode” averages. I don’t want anyone denied access to books, but it would still be better to let people buy their own or borrow from private sources. I easily have over 1,000 books and hundreds more magazines sitting in my house. I’d gladly share those with others.

Note that these statistics do NOT include the MASSIVE waste of money through duplication in Public School Libraries which ADD to YOUR cost for books to sit on shelves gathering dust. I’m guessing the book circulation numbers are SLIGHTLY higher for schools but, even so, most of the books in any library sit on the shelves and gather dust. Definitely when school is not in session.

And I’ll interject the obvious $10 a month (Coincidently approximately the same amount in taxes collected from that family of three.) for an eBook subscription that can be used on the smartphone, tablet (Often provided by schools at taxpayer expense.) or computer that most people have already. Add to that the vast number of “free” books online and there is really no need for physical books and materials to be stored in beautiful buildings so inconveniently located that new ones need to be built at GREAT expense so a few people can use them at the rest of the community’s expense.

What is the PURPOSE of Public Libraries?

“Libraries are community hubs. They connect people to information and connect people to people. They are safe havens for kids, providing after-school homework help, games, and book clubs. They offer computer classes, allowing older adults to stay engaged in a digital world.”

I shouldn’t have done that search. What a bunch of woke (expletive deleted).

Community hubs? What EXACTLY are those MILLION dollar “community centers” there for?

After-school? Isn’t that what that EMPTY school could be used for by paying teachers overtime to make up for their pathetic six-figure salaries?

Computer classes? Isn’t that what your children are for? Aren’t they STILL living with you because of the disastrous economy? And they have computer skills they could teach you since you are paying for the Internet connection anyway.

My children were and are avid readers. Yet we seldom checked books out of a public library. They would check books out of their school library, and we would buy many which they would share and loan to friends.

Neither I nor my spouse uses any services of public libraries, and I’m fairly confident that my neighbors seldom avail themselves of the offerings either. How many MILLIONS are spent to “have” some service available JUST IN CASE someone MIGHT use it? I forget if you can log into your public library account to access sources behind subscription paywalls. I might use that because I’m frugal.

And why does a library need hundreds of square feet of meeting space? And don’t get me started on the BILLION-dollar high schools. And churches have massive amounts of space that are NOT used over 70% of the week and that is just counting days. Calculate that by hours and it is over 80%. Should have just applied the 80/20 rule to guess that statistic. Oh, and most churches have what? LIBRARIES filled with “evil” books that a public library would ban.

Wouldn’t it be better if each citizen KEPT $37.50 of their OWN hard-earned money to spend as THEY wish? Remember, the ONLY economic entity that pays for ANY public “service” through taxes is the END consumer. Don’t fall for that “We got a grant from a corporation.” The corporation gets a tax break that YOU have to make up through higher taxes.

Now you know why I didn’t become a librarian despite being an avid reader, working in libraries for several years, and being offered a job in a public library when I first moved to South Carolina.

This is how to START a negotiation about ANY government service. Start by assuming it is a WASTE of YOUR money and ask WHY the government needs to take Other People’s Money away from them to provide YOU with something that YOU are responsible for providing for yourself and your family.

©2023 Thee Frugal Curmudgeon LLC All rights reserved. Used with permission.