I well recall, in the junior high and high school days, visiting the local library, and having a hard time finding a table that wasn’t occupied by a reader. Now, it’s hard for me to recall seeing anybody read a book at the local library, the newspapers bearing most of the perusal traffic.
Libraries, to me, seem like a communistic university, where the proper activity is the augmentation of knowledge. Originally, they were depositories of essential knowledge, like the nautical books at the famous Alexandria Library, which was burned down by religious fanatics. Book-burning has been a beloved pastime of Fascists for well nigh two-thousand years.
If I were a communist or socialist, (or even an anarchistic syndicalist), the first thing I would offer the populace after a minimum of vegetarian food, clothing, shelter, and emergency medical aid, would be a library, for it is the first step in that Jeffersonian pursuit of happiness which takes man beyond the survival level of food-clothes-shelter.
And Libraries, obviously, were meant to be depositories of books.
But what do we have in the modern library? Is it a sort of public university where those who thirst for knowledge can have their thirst slaked?
In large part, no, for while the modern library may have the same number of books, its overwhelming usage currently is for entertainment — DVDs, video tapes, CDs, the internet. The Library has turned from a communal institution of learning, into an escapist free-video-rental store, with the clerks spending their taxpayer-funded time dispensing entertainment.
Few Liberals recall that in George Orwell’s ‘1984’, the Ministry of Truth was also responsible for putting out entertainment, masses of it, to keep the Plebs satisfied — everything from escapist fiction to crude pornography. The situation in modern America is not much different, when the government is subsidizing the circulation of escapist, violent films, with nudity and realistic sex scenes.
Additionally, there is the vast new library function of providing internet service for its patrons. While undoubtedly some of its usage is for scholarly pursuits, we’d guess that the vast bulk of usage is for entertainment, chat rooms, and other non-scholastic ends. Perhaps, in olden days, similar objections were raised when Mrs. Gaskell’s novels, or the works of Ethel M. Dell, were first added to the stacks. Novels in scholastic libraries were probably regarded with as jaundiced an eye as I regard internet, DVDs and CDs in modern libraries.
And it seems clear to me that it would be far cheaper for government, instead of running these very expensive libraries, and paying out many salaries, to give each person in a locality with phone service an internet connection to the government library or libraries.
With such an internet connection, it is obvious that libraries, as purveyors of books, would largely become obselete. With connection to archive.org and gutenberg.org, a patron has access to hundreds of thousands of free books, which can be downloaded, and with a rational change in the pseudo-law of copyright, it would be possible to double or triple that total.
Of course, the answer to this problem of public libraries is to abolish them, and replace them with private libraries. Individuals, or Collectives of individuals,who feel that public libraries are still essential could then set up their own libraries, open to the public for free, and run them any way they wished. If this was combined with my idea of government giving each individual an internet connection (and this is obviously not a Libertarian idea) then we would have a far better library usage than currently, while saving the taxpayers the violation of their property rights when forced to fund public libraries. As a Libertarian, I would even object to that government internet connection, but I bring it up merely to illustrate how easily scholastic knowledge could be spread in society, except that Liberals never mention such a logical approach, even though they tout the indispensable value of both Libraries and government intervention in education.
The modern American Library is no longer a vehicle for the spread of Jeffersonian Libertarianism through the education of the People, but an escapist-entertainment dispenser, designed to keep the People quiescent while they endure this bureaucratic, socialist society. It has been turned from an instrument of Revolution into an instrument of Pacification.
-Paul Grad, 2014 Libertarian Party of Oregon Gubernatorial Nominee