Uncle Frank's Diary
Number Fifteen

What Would $100 Billion Buy on the Library Market?

Oh, these are fine days and times. The Liar in Chief and his flunkies on Fox News spin interpretations of reality that make the logic of Alice in Wonderland look transparent. The economy “recovers” without adding jobs; the U.S. takes legal actions to prevent its citizens from obtaining affordable drugs from Canada; Bush Regime propaganda mavens claim that the proliferation of attacks on U.S. and “friendly” native targets in Iraq proves that we have the terrorists right where we want them (does anyone remember John Cleese’s turn as the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail?); Jen and Bennifer are either getting married or they aren’t, or something like that, as if anyone gives a rip in hell; and dark chocolate is better for you than jogging.

Well, well. Uncle Frank just don’t know what to make of it all.

But let’s try to find some sense in it—at least in the dough we’re kneading up for incineration in the oven of Iraq. The most common estimate for what the U.S. will spend in Iraq over the coming year is $100 billion, give or take (mostly give) a few billion. $100 billion is for most of us (certainly it is for me) a meaningless number. In an attempt to reduce it to something comprehensible, I have determined what library-oriented items $100 billion would buy, based on the latest average prices and costs reported in the 48th edition (2003) of The Bowker Annual, and on what I think are some reasonable estimates. I’ve rounded some figures here and there to avoid nitpicking.

p.s. Thanks to the swell calculator on my computer, with enough spaces for really big numbers. My pocket calculator wouldn’t cut it.

Paying for Librarians

Average starting salary for librarians, 2001: $36, 818.

      Add 25 percent for benefits:                     9,204

      Total for a beginning librarian:                $46,022

$100 billion would pay salaries and benefits for approximately 2.2 million beginning librarians.

Paying for Library Clerks

Assume a “generous” starting salary of $25,000 for a library clerk

      Add 25 percent for benefits:                6,250

      Total for a beginning library clerk:       $31,250

$100 billion would pay salaries and benefits for  3.2 million beginning library clerks.

Paying for Student Assistants

Assume a “generous” $8/hour for a library student assistant; that student assistant would earn, at 10 hrs/week, $4,000 over a 50-week period.

$100 billion would pay 25 million student assistants $8/hour, 10 hours a week, for 50 weeks.

Paying for Public Library Buildings

From July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002, there were 212 U.S. public library building projects. Their average cost was $3,716,981.

$100 billion would pay for 26,903  public library building projects, each costing $3,716,981, with enough change left over to put up a couple of nice toolsheds.

Paying for Periodicals

The average price of a U.S. periodical (excluding Russian translations) in 2002 was $282.

$100 billion would pay for subscriptions to 354.6 million  periodicals at $282 each.

Paying for Books

The average hardcover book in 2002 cost $59.80.

$100 billion would buy 1.67 billion  hardcover books at $59.80 each.

Paying for Paperbacks

The average mass market paperback cost $6.48 in 2002.

$100 billion would buy 15.4 billion mass market paperbacks at $6.48 each.

Paying for Library Budgets of Small-town Libraries

The average overall budget for U.S. public libraries serving populations from 25,000 to 49,999 in 2003 is $1,868,000.

$100 billion would cover the budgets of  53,533 such libraries.

Paying the Budget of a Major Big-City Library

The Chicago Public Library’s 2003 budget is $96.5 million.

$100 billion would cover the budgets of 1,036 libraries like the Chicago Public.

Paying for Clones of the Building Where Uncle Frank Would Hang His Hat, if He Had One

As a local note, $100 billion would build approximately 5,000 libraries like the one where I work.

So what does this all mean, brothers and sisters? I leave it to you. Pass the dark chocolate, please; my body chemistry requires adjustment.

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Graphic by Karen McGinnis