Public libraries around the world are under financial pressure. Self-imposed austerity forces governments, especially local governments to cut subsidies and to raise membership fees. And many public libraries are forced to sell off part of their collection in order to survive.
However, public libraries are important in republican society as the ideal of a self-governing community requires a well-educated population. Public libraries make knowledge accessible to citizens at low-cost and hence enable permanent education.
One solution to this problem could be the establishment of “cooperative libraries”. The idea is that private book owners in community could set up a cooperative which would allow members to borrow books from other members.
Using an on-line database members can enter their books and prospective borrowers can browse for books they like to read. But the books will remain the property of the respective members and owners will be able to withdraw their books from the system at all time.
Of course, some measures should be implemented to prevent borrowers from stealing or damaging books. People who refuse to return books or who return damaged books, should be expelled from the cooperative and hence be unable to borrow any longer. Additionally books could be insured in order to compensate the owners in case of theft or destruction.
It is important to note that this proposal does not seek to replace public libraries but to supplement their services.