…public libraries actually distribute income from the poorest to the more affluent strata of the community. ~Frederick and Serena Weaver (from an article in Library Journal, 1979)
When I hit this quote in my library marketing textbook, I actually read it the other way around at first! Apparently, Weaver and Weaver argue that because the poor rarely use the public library and because public libraries are supported from taxes, the working poor are paying for libraries that benefit the nonpoor. Of course, if our tax system were more progressive, it would be the wealthy who were paying most. But it does give me pause, since I think of my work with libraries as helping to foster social and economic equality.
The text goes on to suggest that in order to not transfer wealth from the poor to the rich, we might charge users for library service, perhaps charging more for services that upper classes use relatively more often. Most libraries would be reluctant to do this, I think, because we are so dependent on political support from those upper classes. Do we prostitute ourselves?
The text is Andreasen and Kotler, Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations, 6th ed., Prentice Hall, 2003.