|Jeff, there are at least a couple of flaws in your argument for private libraries.|
First, it’s debatable that the economics would stack up. Commercial video outlets typically rent their products overnight, or for a day or two, while library books are usually borrowed for two to three weeks. If books were rented on the same commercial basis as videos, it’s likely that the cost of borrowing would become prohibitive.
Second, and more importantly, you’re not comparing apples with apples. The goal of outlets such as Blockbusters is to shift the greatest amount of product for the greatest profit. That is a perfectly legitimate goal, but it’s not the business of public libraries, which have a wider brief: to impart information to all comers.
As such, public libraries are not limited to shifting any particular product. That is why, as you note, that libraries offer information in a variety of formats. And since information is part of a social nexus, in a public library you will also see people engaging in a variety of related activities: browsing, reading books and magazines, doing research and homework, surfing the net, reading to children, meeting other people, and so on. And of course, out back there are qualified people to bring this all together.
Contrast this with the Blockbuster experience: find your video, pay your money to a kid who can read a label, out the door.
The “products” on offer are quite different. Of course, there are downsides to public libraries, among them the dreaded Soviet breadline. But the alternative to queuing is money. Information would then be rationed according to means. And that would be a retrograde step.