It's time to bring a beloved institution into the 21st century
As a municipal official (selectman) and taxpayer, I often wonder why government evenly distributes taxes when there are clearly ways to lower the burden across the general tax base by charging fees for services that are used by specific groups. Take into consideration the following example:
Public libraries have been in existence for thousands of years, but for the purposes of this article, let's start with the year 1731, when Benjamin Franklin began a subscription library as a means of sharing thousands of books. Members needed to either purchase stock in the library (which was setup as a company) or become a member -- for about $5.
By 1833, Peterborough, New Hampshire, began to use tax revenue to purchase books for a publicly owned library, free to all residents. In 1854, the Boston Public Library became what is widely known as the first real public library, and more than 20 years later, the Dewey decimal system was brought into use.
In the early 20th century, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $50 million to build 1,700 libraries in the United States. There are now more than 9,000 public libraries, not including branches. Around 85 percent of library funding comes from federal, state, and local taxes. The majority (90 percent or more) of that comes from local property taxes.