Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

5.28.2015

Well Said

Selections from

The Internet can’t replace libraries: Why they matter more than ever in the age of Google

" . . . Of course, you don’t have to be homeless to use a library, but that’s the point. You don’t have to be anyone in particular to go inside and stay as long as you want, sit in its armchairs, read the news, write your dissertation, charge your phone, use the bathroom, check your email, find the address of a hotel or homeless shelter. Of all the institutions we have, both public and private, the public library is the truest democratic space.

"The library’s value isn’t lost on us. A Gallup survey from 2013 found that libraries are not just popular, they’re extremely popular. Over 90 percent of Americans feel that libraries are a vital part of their communities. Compare this to 53 percent for the police, 27 percent for public schools, and just 7 percent for Congress, and you’re looking at perhaps the greatest success of the public sector. . . .

"But according to Palfrey, one of the greatest threats to libraries is nostalgia—the way that we, the loving public, associate libraries with the pleasures of a bygone era, and assume that the growth of the Internet is slowly draining libraries of their usefulness.

"'Nostalgia is too thin a reed for librarians to cling to in a time of such transition,' Palfrey writes. 'Thinking of libraries as they were ages ago and wanting them to remain the same is the last thing we should want for them.'

"In our heartfelt but naïve fondness for “quiet, inviting spaces” full of books and nothing else, we fail to realize that libraries are becoming more important, not less, to our communities and our democracy. . . .

"'The risk of a small number of technically savvy, for-profit companies determining the bulk of what we read and how we read it is enormous. The great beauty of the rich, diverse library system that has developed over past century and a half has been the role of librarians in selecting and making available a range of material for people to consult and enjoy. No one pressing an ideology can co-opt this system; no single commercial entity can do an end run around the library system in the interest of profit.' . . .

"Libraries aren’t lagging behind the digital revolution because of a lack of inspiration and gumption. Instead, it’s because the government refuses to create new institutions to solve new problems as it once did. Thus libraries have become the ad hoc receptacle for all of our country’s gaps in social services—with shrinking funds. . . .

"Really, the scarcity is ideological. Palfrey hints at it, but it needs to be dealt with head on. Libraries are at risk for the same reason as food stamps—not because there’s no demand or taxpayers can’t afford it, but because Republicans and Democrats alike are divesting from the public good, favoring private enterprise and making conditions ripe for a Google-Apple-Amazon-Facebook oligopoly on information.

"'It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the fate of well-informed, open, free republics could hinge on the future of libraries,' Palfrey writes in his conclusion. In fact, the fate of our republic hinges on the vitality of all public life, and libraries should not be required—even on double or triple budget—to take on the whole burden. . . . "

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