Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library
At the time of their inception in the nineteenth century, public libraries were seen as critical institutions in the creation of a free and democratic society. The public library was conceived as a "people's university": a university that was open to everyone. But the purpose of this people's university was not, as has come to be the case today, to merely train people to become more productive workers, let alone to entertain them. The purpose was to educate people to function responsibly as free and equal citizens in an enlightened democracy. Thus, the current decadent state of our public libraries reflects the state of the culture at large. In writing about the condition of public libraries I mean to open discussion on broader social and cultural issues as well.
I'll be reading the whole thing over the next few weeks and commenting on it as I go But what I've read so far is spot on.
Thanks to Siva Vaidhyanathan for the link.