In defense of libraries

Discuss whatever you want here ... movies, books, recipes, politics, beer, wine, TV ... everything except classical music.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
John F
Posts: 19746
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

In defense of libraries

Post by John F » Sun Sep 09, 2018 1:38 pm

"This summer, Forbes magazine published an article arguing that libraries no longer served a purpose and did not deserve public support. The author, an economist, suggested that Amazon replace libraries with its own retail outlets, and claimed that most Americans would prefer a free-market option."

I've quoted this from the article that follows, for those of us who take libraries for granted and assume they don't need defending. Here in New York City, the three great public library systems - New York, Brooklyn, and Queens - have recently received increased funding after years of flat or declining support. But elsewhere it's a different story, as Eric Klinenberg found in the research he describes. After all, we live in a country whose president doesn't read books, or much else if Bob Woodward is to be believed, and whosegoverning party serves the rich and begrudges everybody else free services they can't otherwise afford. Libraries aren't just about reading books. Read on.

To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library
By Eric Klinenberg
Sept. 8, 2018

Is the public library obsolete? A lot of powerful forces in society seem to think so. In recent years, declines in the circulation of bound books in some parts of the country have led prominent critics to argue that libraries are no longer serving their historical function. Countless elected officials insist that in the 21st century — when so many books are digitized, so much public culture exists online and so often people interact virtually — libraries no longer need the support they once commanded.

Libraries are already starved for resources. In some cities, even affluent ones like Atlanta, entire branches are being shut down. In San Jose, Calif., just down the road from Facebook, Google and Apple, the public library budget is so tight that users with overdue fees above $10 aren’t allowed to borrow books or use computers.

But the problem that libraries face today isn’t irrelevance. Indeed, in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed. According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans ages 16 and over used a public library in the past year, and two-thirds say that closing their local branch would have a “major impact on their community.”

Libraries are being disparaged and neglected at precisely the moment when they are most valued and necessary. Why the disconnect? In part it’s because the founding principle of the public library — that all people deserve free, open access to our shared culture and heritage — is out of sync with the market logic that dominates our world. But it’s also because so few influential people understand the expansive role that libraries play in modern communities.

Libraries are an example of what I call “social infrastructure”: the physical spaces and organizations that shape the way people interact. Libraries don’t just provide free access to books and other cultural materials, they also offer things like companionship for older adults, de facto child care for busy parents, language instruction for immigrants and welcoming public spaces for the poor, the homeless and young people.

I recently spent a year doing ethnographic research in libraries in New York City. Again and again, I was reminded how essential libraries are, not only for a neighborhood’s vitality but also for helping to address all manner of personal problems.

For older people, especially widows, widowers and those who live alone, libraries are places for culture and company, through book clubs, movie nights, sewing circles and classes in art, current events and computing. For many, the library is the main place they interact with people from other generations.

For children and teenagers, libraries help instill an ethic of responsibility, to themselves and to their neighbors, by teaching them what it means to borrow and take care of something public, and to return it so others can have it too. For new parents, grandparents and caretakers who feel overwhelmed when watching an infant or a toddler by themselves, libraries are a godsend.

In many neighborhoods, particularly those where young people aren’t hyper-scheduled in formal after-school programs, libraries are highly popular among adolescents and teenagers who want to spend time with other people their age. One reason is that they’re open, accessible and free. Another is that the library staff members welcome them; in many branches, they even assign areas for teenagers to be with one another.
To appreciate why this matters, compare the social space of the library with the social space of commercial establishments like Starbucks or McDonald’s. These are valuable parts of the social infrastructure, but not everyone can afford to frequent them, and not all paying customers are welcome to stay for long.

Older and poor people will often avoid Starbucks altogether, because the fare is too expensive and they feel that they don’t belong. The elderly library patrons I got to know in New York told me that they feel even less welcome in the trendy new coffee shops, bars and restaurants that are so common in the city’s gentrifying neighborhoods. Poor and homeless library patrons don’t even consider entering these places. They know from experience that simply standing outside a high-end eatery can prompt managers to call the police. But you rarely see a police officer in a library.

This is not to say that libraries are always peaceful and serene. During the time I spent doing research, I witnessed a handful of heated disputes, physical altercations and other uncomfortable situations, sometimes involving people who appeared to be mentally ill or under the influence of drugs. But such problems are inevitable in a public institution that’s dedicated to open access, especially when drug clinics, homeless shelters and food banks routinely turn away — and often refer to the library! — those who most need help. What’s remarkable is how rarely these disruptions happen, how civilly they are managed and how quickly a library regains its rhythm afterward.

The openness and diversity that flourish in neighborhood libraries were once a hallmark of urban culture. But that has changed. Though American cities are growing more ethnically, racially and culturally diverse, they too often remain divided and unequal, with some neighborhoods cutting themselves off from difference — sometimes intentionally, sometimes just by dint of rising costs — particularly when it comes to race and social class.

Libraries are the kinds of places where people with different backgrounds, passions and interests can take part in a living democratic culture. They are the kinds of places where the public, private and philanthropic sectors can work together to reach for something higher than the bottom line.

This summer, Forbes magazine published an article arguing that libraries no longer served a purpose and did not deserve public support. The author, an economist, suggested that Amazon replace libraries with its own retail outlets, and claimed that most Americans would prefer a free-market option. The public response — from librarians especially, but also public officials and ordinary citizens — was so overwhelmingly negative that Forbes deleted the article from its website.

We should take heed. Today, as cities and suburbs continue to reinvent themselves, and as cynics claim that government has nothing good to contribute to that process, it’s important that institutions like libraries get the recognition they deserve. It’s worth noting that “liber,” the Latin root of the word “library,” means both “book” and “free.” Libraries stand for and exemplify something that needs defending: the public institutions that — even in an age of atomization, polarization and inequality — serve as the bedrock of civil society.

If we have any chance of rebuilding a better society, social infrastructure like the library is precisely what we need.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/opin ... brary.html
John Francis

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26728
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:30 am

One has to remember that Forbes means Malcolm Forbes and represents the top .01%. They represent a way of thinking that would go much further than deprive us of libraries. And BTW, the double meaning of liber in Latin is coincidental as with many words in English, while the double meaning of salus (health, salvation) is inherent.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
Posts: 19746
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by John F » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:39 am

Malcolm Forbes used to say that his magazine was a "capitalist tool." He's been dead nearly 30 years and his son Steve Forbs is now its editor. Evidently he decided that publishing the article was a mistake, for all the noncapitalist protests it brought, since he had it deleted from the magazine's online edition. I have a feeling, I'm not sure why, that Malcolm Sr. wouldn't have published it in the first place - but having done so, he wouldn't have backed down.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. We agree that, as I said, "We live in a country ... whose governing party serves the rich and begrudges everybody else free services they can't otherwise afford." Such as Medicaid. The proposal that free public libraries no longer be free, or that they should no longer exist, is a symptom of the disease. But it's also a direct threat to the libraries and those who use them, and the libraries need to be defended on their merits (as Klinenberg does) while Medicaid and other programs must be defended on their own terms.
John Francis

living_stradivarius
Posts: 6710
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 9:41 pm
Location: Minnesnowta
Contact:

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by living_stradivarius » Mon Sep 10, 2018 11:11 am

John F wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 1:38 pm
This summer, Forbes magazine published an article arguing that libraries no longer served a purpose and did not deserve public support. The author, an economist, suggested that Amazon replace libraries with its own retail outlets, and claimed that most Americans would prefer a free-market option. The public response — from librarians especially, but also public officials and ordinary citizens — was so overwhelmingly negative that Forbes deleted the article from its website.

I need to find out who this was and read the original argument. Wow, lol.
Image

John F
Posts: 19746
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by John F » Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:49 pm

You'll find more about it here:

https://qz.com/1334123/forbes-deleted-a ... libraries/

A Forbes spokesperson said:

“Forbes advocates spirited dialogue on a range of topics, including those that often take a contrarian view. Libraries play an important role in our society. This article was outside of this contributor’s specific area of expertise, and has since been removed.”

In other words, the author, Panos Mourdoukoutas, didn't know what he was talking about.
John Francis

living_stradivarius
Posts: 6710
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 9:41 pm
Location: Minnesnowta
Contact:

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by living_stradivarius » Mon Sep 10, 2018 6:26 pm

John F wrote:
Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:49 pm
In other words, the author, Panos Mourdoukoutas, didn't know what he was talking about.
Look at the twitter firestorm: https://twitter.com/pmourdoukoutas/stat ... 64?lang=en

He's a professor at a public university to boot.
Panos Mourdoukoutas is Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at Long Island University in Brookville, NY.
Image

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17519
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by Lance » Tue Sep 11, 2018 12:40 pm

We have many libraries in large- and small communities. I see them being used regularly by all sorts of people, young and old and in-between. While I have, personally, had no need to visit a library in a long time, except to attend NYCON conventions, I have my own ever-expanding library in a variety of subjects from music, writing, World War I and II, Hitler and the Holocaust, biographies of all sorts, etc. However, when I was younger attending grade-through-high school, the library was a huge help to me and all my classmates. That was a long time ago. I am still in support of libraries for the many reasons as outlined in John F's post. We have, in many instances with younger folks, seen the computer take over in the world of "education." Not all of what we read on the Internet is valid nor true. People tend to believe in what they read by anybody as being gospel. The whole thought of vanquishing libraries is only another ploy to help deteriorate our great country. I am totally ashamed of what Panos Mourdoukoutas espouses. And congratulations to Eric Klinenberg!
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26728
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Sep 11, 2018 2:27 pm

Lance wrote:
Tue Sep 11, 2018 12:40 pm
We have many libraries in large- and small communities. I see them being used regularly by all sorts of people, young and old and in-between. While I have, personally, had no need to visit a library in a long time, except to attend NYCON conventions, I have my own ever-expanding library in a variety of subjects from music, writing, World War I and II, Hitler and the Holocaust, biographies of all sorts, etc. However, when I was younger attending grade-through-high school, the library was a huge help to me and all my classmates. That was a long time ago. I am still in support of libraries for the many reasons as outlined in John F's post. We have, in many instances with younger folks, seen the computer take over in the world of "education." Not all of what we read on the Internet is valid nor true. People tend to believe in what they read by anybody as being gospel. The whole thought of vanquishing libraries is only another ploy to help deteriorate our great country. I am totally ashamed of what Panos Mourdoukoutas espouses. And congratulations to Eric Klinenberg!
While I have small Latin and less Greek, I am somewhat doubtful that Panos Mourdoukoutas is even a real name. I still use the central depository library of the Southern Adirondack Library System in Glens Falls, either directly or by loan, on a very regular basis. In fact, I was just there today. Nothing can yet replace a book, and our best students do know that. I always inquire when a student is carrying a book, no matter what class I'm covering. Last year, and you will scarcely believe it, there was a young lady who was reading Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion. If I'm ever going to drop dead from a heart attack in the middle of work, let it be over a moment like that.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
Posts: 19746
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by John F » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:49 pm

Lance wrote:While I have, personally, had no need to visit a library in a long time, except to attend NYCON conventions, I have my own ever-expanding library in a variety of subjects
My personal library is large and growing, but I also read books which I'm not going to reread and don't need to own, and the public library provides them to me for free. That saves me from a problem I'm now having, how to dispose of unneeded books on my shelves.
John Francis

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17519
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by Lance » Wed Sep 12, 2018 1:23 pm

Understand that problem completely, John Francis!
John F wrote:
Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:49 pm
Lance wrote:While I have, personally, had no need to visit a library in a long time, except to attend NYCON conventions, I have my own ever-expanding library in a variety of subjects
My personal library is large and growing, but I also read books which I'm not going to reread and don't need to own, and the public library provides them to me for free. That saves me from a problem I'm now having, how to dispose of unneeded books on my shelves.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26728
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 1:42 pm

John F wrote:
Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:49 pm
Lance wrote:While I have, personally, had no need to visit a library in a long time, except to attend NYCON conventions, I have my own ever-expanding library in a variety of subjects
My personal library is large and growing, but I also read books which I'm not going to reread and don't need to own, and the public library provides them to me for free. That saves me from a problem I'm now having, how to dispose of unneeded books on my shelves.
As a former library trustee, I speak with some authority when I state that nobody wants to throw away books. Therefore, even a tiny library like the one in Stony Creek is inundated with donations that cannot be disposed of in book sales. This is a terrible thing to say, but in fact the only solution is to find a way to throw them away. Library de-accessioning is another matter. Once I went down the entire library collection at the request of the librarian and made my recommendations of what to keep, but more to the point, in college I spent a summer working at the West Point Library which at the time was doing some serious de-accessioning. They were going to throw away dozens and dozens of regimental histories, unique works that were the only source in the world for what was in them. A scholar could at any point have found them priceless for his own research. I complained about this, and won.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

living_stradivarius
Posts: 6710
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 9:41 pm
Location: Minnesnowta
Contact:

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by living_stradivarius » Wed Sep 12, 2018 3:25 pm

Lance wrote:
Tue Sep 11, 2018 12:40 pm
We have many libraries in large- and small communities. I see them being used regularly by all sorts of people, young and old and in-between. While I have, personally, had no need to visit a library in a long time, except to attend NYCON conventions, I have my own ever-expanding library in a variety of subjects from music, writing, World War I and II, Hitler and the Holocaust, biographies of all sorts, etc. However, when I was younger attending grade-through-high school, the library was a huge help to me and all my classmates. That was a long time ago. I am still in support of libraries for the many reasons as outlined in John F's post. We have, in many instances with younger folks, seen the computer take over in the world of "education." Not all of what we read on the Internet is valid nor true. People tend to believe in what they read by anybody as being gospel. The whole thought of vanquishing libraries is only another ploy to help deteriorate our great country. I am totally ashamed of what Panos Mourdoukoutas espouses. And congratulations to Eric Klinenberg!
I grew up in NY and as a student who went to three different public schools during different times in my childhood (my family moved quite a bit within NY), I can say that the local public library (in all three instances) served as a place where students could study and socialize after school. This was especially important for working class parents who couldn't send their kids to after school programs.
Image

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26728
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:25 pm

living_stradivarius wrote:
Wed Sep 12, 2018 3:25 pm
Lance wrote:
Tue Sep 11, 2018 12:40 pm
We have many libraries in large- and small communities. I see them being used regularly by all sorts of people, young and old and in-between. While I have, personally, had no need to visit a library in a long time, except to attend NYCON conventions, I have my own ever-expanding library in a variety of subjects from music, writing, World War I and II, Hitler and the Holocaust, biographies of all sorts, etc. However, when I was younger attending grade-through-high school, the library was a huge help to me and all my classmates. That was a long time ago. I am still in support of libraries for the many reasons as outlined in John F's post. We have, in many instances with younger folks, seen the computer take over in the world of "education." Not all of what we read on the Internet is valid nor true. People tend to believe in what they read by anybody as being gospel. The whole thought of vanquishing libraries is only another ploy to help deteriorate our great country. I am totally ashamed of what Panos Mourdoukoutas espouses. And congratulations to Eric Klinenberg!
I grew up in NY and as a student who went to three different public schools during different times in my childhood (my family moved quite a bit within NY), I can say that the local public library (in all three instances) served as a place where students could study and socialize after school. This was especially important for working class parents who couldn't send their kids to after school programs.
Which, to change the subject, explains why you are rather to the Right and don't even believe in Social Security. :roll: Sorry, Henry, but I know how to give it with both barrels when it is called for.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
Posts: 19746
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by John F » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:38 pm

living_stradivarius wrote:as a student who went to three different public schools during different times in my childhood (my family moved quite a bit within NY), I can say that the local public library (in all three instances) served as a place where students could study and socialize after school.
That rings a bell. My high school years were spent at three different schools, no two of them in consecutive years, which makes it hard to "socialize" let alone form lasting friendships. It wasn't until the four years of college that I made friendships that could last and have. (My last surviving college friend told me recently that he's been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease, so unfortunately that friendship may not last much longer.)

My schools had good libraries and students were welcome to use them whenever the building was open, so I didn't use the local public libraries or even know where they were. But now that I'm volunteering at a public library, I understand the various uses (other than borrowing books and doing scholarly research) that they are put to. So sitting at the information desk, which has been renamed the Welcome Desk, I'm always as welcoming as I know how.
John Francis

living_stradivarius
Posts: 6710
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 9:41 pm
Location: Minnesnowta
Contact:

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by living_stradivarius » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:03 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:25 pm
Which, to change the subject, explains why you are rather to the Right and don't even believe in Social Security. :roll: Sorry, Henry, but I know how to give it with both barrels when it is called for.
I'm all for upward mobility for young people, and public libraries certainly facilitate this. So try as you might to pigeonhole my opinions into your misguided notions of Left and Right, you won't get much constructive discourse out of such behavior. To put it simply, the majority of Millennials, plenty of whom use the public library, won't see a dime from Social Security. Your generation robbed them.

Social Security is broken and done for, and I fundamentally disagree with its practical implementation. It's essentially a broken tax on young people to take care of the old built with the presumption that WWII era demographics would proceed into the 21st century without change. I don't feel the least bit responsible for what you take as a personal affront for what you believe should have been done for your family simply because I advocate a different policy approach that you take issue with. If you can't separate your personal experience from affecting your temperament in a debate, then be prepared to take the full brunt of cold, dispassionate candor. Or just walk away, whichever works.

Everyone has hardships to contend with, deal with it.
Image

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26728
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:54 pm

living_stradivarius wrote:
Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:03 pm
jbuck919 wrote:
Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:25 pm
Which, to change the subject, explains why you are rather to the Right and don't even believe in Social Security. :roll: Sorry, Henry, but I know how to give it with both barrels when it is called for.
I'm all for upward mobility for young people, and public libraries certainly facilitate this. So try as you might to pigeonhole my opinions into your misguided notions of Left and Right, you won't get much constructive discourse out of such behavior. To put it simply, the majority of Millennials, plenty of whom use the public library, won't see a dime from Social Security. Your generation robbed them.

Social Security is broken and done for, and I fundamentally disagree with its practical implementation. It's essentially a broken tax on young people to take care of the old built with the presumption that WWII era demographics would proceed into the 21st century without change. I don't feel the least bit responsible for what you take as a personal affront for what you believe should have been done for your family simply because I advocate a different policy approach that you take issue with. If you can't separate your personal experience from affecting your temperament in a debate, then be prepared to take the full brunt of cold, dispassionate candor. Or just walk away, whichever works.

Everyone has hardships to contend with, deal with it.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/lowres.cartoon ... 24_low.jpg

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

living_stradivarius
Posts: 6710
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 9:41 pm
Location: Minnesnowta
Contact:

Re: In defense of libraries

Post by living_stradivarius » Thu Sep 13, 2018 6:52 am

Petulant, passive aggressive children shall now be ignored :lol:
Image

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests