National digital library endowment plan featured in Education Week

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edWeekEndowmentLibraryCity’s proposal for a national digital library endowment has now made the leading publication in the field of K-12 education—not just philanthropy (Chronicle of Philanthropy) and libraries (Library Journal).

Education Week has published a 1,300-word essay with a home-page link.

Also to be reproduced in the print edition, the article is a collaboration between me and Jim Duncan, executive director of the Colorado Library Consortium. Jim is offering his personal views.

The beginning:

As a boy, Warren Buffett is said to have read book after book on money.

Thankfully, he did not live in Los Angeles and rely on the library at Roy Romer Middle School. Students there couldn't check out a Buffett biography, or any other title, when a Los Angeles Times reporter dropped by last year. The reason? The library at the time was locked up because of staff cuts.

Wait. It gets worse. Romer Middle School has lots of company throughout the United States in its school library horrors. One hundred and seventy-six certified librarians worked in the Philadelphia city schools in 1991. Today, the count is just 11 in the 218-school district.

But Mr. Buffett and other members of the super-rich could at least help, through a national digital-library endowment, funded by interested billionaires. The endowment could help pay for librarians, e-books, other content, and related technology for school and public libraries. It could especially target high-poverty areas and promote the hiring and professional development of minority librarians—while also nurturing the love of literature for the new America.

Of course: not every billionaire will give. But the 400 richest Americans are together worth more than $2 trillion. Just a small fraction of the 400 could come up the money to fund an endowment with assets of $15-$20 billion in five years. America’s public libraries today can spend only around $1.2 billion a year on content. The endowment would hardly end our libraries’ fiscal problems. But it would help in strategic ways.

Now—if policymakers and enlightened members of the super rich will only follow up! In printing the proposal, the three publications have not offered endorsements. But they are saying that the plan is worth contemplating and discussing. May the dialog begin!

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