For Breda

…everyone’s favorite research librarian.

I’m currently reading The End is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome:  How Going Broke will Leave America Richer, Happier and More Secure by Kevin D. Williamson.  I’m about halfway through it, and so far it’s been written in pretty pure libertarian win.  Lots of Quote of the Day fodder, but I get the sinking impression that the last third is going to largely be of “and then a MIRACLE will occur!” variety, because, by George, we’re AMERICANS and that’s what we DO!

Time will tell.

But for today, I ran across a section that just had me saying to myself “Gotta post this for Breda.”  It’s in the chapter on “What Government is For.”:

Privately funded and volunteer-staffed public libraries were the norm for many years, from magnificent ones such as the New York Public Library―the main branch of which was the largest marble building in the world at the time of its opening―to modest ones throughout suburbs and small towns across the country.  At the apogee of WASP society-lady culture, volunteering at the local library was practically a rite of passage, an entrée into more prestigious charitable work.  (It was a perfection of mid-twentieth-century American upper-class culture that the vanity of ambitious social climbers was exceedingly well aligned with genuine civic virtue, and that conspicuous consumption had not yet displaced conspicuous civil service.  The WASP establishment had its shortcomings, to be sure, but its absence is today keenly felt from the Main Line to Orange County.)  To be sure, in many of these cases there was some entanglement with politics from the beginning, and in a great many more an eventual entanglement with politics, which has been especially harmful in the case of the public libraries: Somehow, as library budgets ballooned and volunteer society ladies were displaced by graduate-schooled, credentialed professionals in the faintly ridiculous field of “library science,” our libraries were transformed from quiet places to read a book into psychiatric wards in which homeless men masturbate to Internet pornography.  The San Francisco public libraries recently installed barriers to increase the level of privacy for this activity.

Coming to a library near you?

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