Sunday, March 7, 2010

Public Libraries: Jewels of a Mature Civilization

Link to March 1 Providence Journal column by Stanley M. Aronson, M.D., Dean of Medicine Emeritus, Brown University, "University of Books, the people's library".

In some distant day when a historian reflects upon the enduring treasures of American society, surely the public library system will rank with such jewels of a mature civilization as public school systems and hospitals.

Books are, of course, the indispensable currency of any library. But books can be sequestered in some private room with but one or two people having free access to their contents. A public library, however, declares to the world that its resources are open to the critical inspection of the many. True, some of its contents represent uncompromising vanity, perhaps libel or even fabrication. But the very existence of allegedly aberrant texts transforms the library into a laboratory for readers to develop independent standards of accuracy, with ways of detecting slovenliness and corrupt reasoning. Innocence is thus interrupted.

A supportive, though "text"-ual, view of public library services.

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