New challenges facing public libraries require increasing resources and/or a more systematic approach in selecting from the increasing amount of new materials and filtering the overwhelming information glut. In facing this dilemma one idea could be to introduce user fees. Reports the results of investigations into the nature and level of user fees established in public libraries in several countries. The article discusses six general perspectives concerning user fees related to the future role of public libraries: the financial rationale underlying user fees; the willingness of users to pay; user fees as a means of collecting information on user preferences and controlling/limiting its use; the impact on the social distribution of library services; aspects of rethinking the modern welfare state; and aspects of enlightenment in a post‐modern society.
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