The question came up on one of those Yahoo groups. It is a group called the Antique Pattern Library which preserves and puts up out of copyright craft patterns on the internet. I put up a post about it last year when they were trying to raise just enough funds to cover the cost of keeping the site going.
Now the group is trying to retain and maintain the current funding and get more. The person who does the hard work put the question up as she had been asked to find out how many people who used the site were in this position.
As I expected there were a flurry of responses from people who are housebound and use the site for inspiration. Most of the respondents also mentioned that they were short of money and that a "free" resource like this made an enormous difference to their lives.
Other people use it too, of course they do. I have a friend here who is a world renowned needlewoman. She teaches all over the world. She has written books on types of needlework I had not heard of until she showed me. Although she must get paid in order to live she has also volunteered hours of her time to preserving materials for future generations. She uses the resource because she cannot get to the museums and libraries that hold other materials.
There has been a great deal written about the importance of hobbies, especially creative hobbies, and the maintenance of mental and physical health. I don't doubt that people who create things are much less inclined to destroy things.
So, why should it be up to a few to have to fight to preserve things? Why should they still have to fight for funds? A local government organisation here wanted to charge quite heavily for a group with support needs to meet in old school buildings intended for community use. The group - which taught crafts - was run by volunteers. It folded because, to just cover the costs, they had to raise the fee to more than people with support needs could afford. Craft groups run in local church halls have waiting lists.
I can see the same thing happening to internet sites like the Antique Pattern Library. Most people could afford to pay a small fee to use it but projects like this need government funding or funding from international bodies. If the money is not there the groups will fold and many more people will lose.
There are essential services that have to be paid for but the question of who pays for them and why they should pay for them is surely in need of investigation. If government is happy to pay out millions of dollars to sporting organisations - where professionals are well paid - then why not even one percent of that to groups like the Antique Pattern Library? What's the difference? Why should a footballer earn more to play one match than a craftsperson will earn in a year?
If anyone can come up with some good reasons - please let me know!