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I Love Libraries
Dana Williams
Libraries are a good judge of how civilized a society is. The more knowledge freely available information is, the better the society (generally, at least). Libraries facilitate the free sharing of information, regardless of race, gender, education, and age (at least nowadays). Access to information, ideas, data, and such are bedrock resources for allowing citizens to foster intellectual self-defense against those in power who distort and lie about their actions.

But, I love libraries because they specifically embody the values I hold dear. They are huge collections of media that is a publicly-owned resource, shared amongst the community. It is the distribution of cost for these materials across all borrowers. It is mutual aid and sharing on an incredible scale.

The diversity of the subjects held at libraries is invaluable. One can learn practically anything from a good library. It allows a person to enter it, and slowly work their way into a topic they wish to know more about. Libraries connect various topics together, encouraging people to link together ideas and concepts.

Librarians themselves are model civil libertarians. First they have an amazing tolerance for unpopular ideas and support for free speech. Second they believe in a right of access to information, unrestricted and unlimited. Thirdly, they are defenders of privacy and confidentiality, and frequently scrub patron's checkout records so that government spooks cannot pry into reading habits. All this, plus they go the extra mile to assist anyone in finding information!

The socialistic nature of libraries – how the burden of compiling and maintaining a library is distributed across the population – is combined with the communistic nature of sharing the collectively owned materials. This leftish inclination brings out the best in the public-private dichotomy. Any given resource one checks out at the library may have been read, viewed, or listened to hundreds if not thousands of times throughout the years.

One must really step-back and appreciate how incredibly important these resources are for so many people. In other situations, one might personally buy a book, read it, and never read it again, nor share it with anyone else. This is not only costly to the individual, but wasteful as well in terms of their own resources, physical materials needed to make the book, and in the potential for the book. By the “public” buying the book, one pays only a fraction of the cost of it, and may re-borrow the book repeatedly to read, while at other times it is being utilized by others for that same reason.

Finally, libraries are warehouses for cool, interesting, intellectual people who thirst for knowledge and information. One can meet homeless folk who check their free email accounts, meet students doing research for their classes, retirees doing research on their family genealogy, families who bring in their children to get reading materials and to attend sponsored reading programs at the library, and everyday folk who need to learn some specific thing or are just interested in broadening their horizons. I love libraries.

03/03/04