13 February 2009

A Public Institution ~ No Questions Asked, No Judgements Made

I came across this Op-Ed in The Buffalo News in a roundabout way.* In any case, the author of the Op-Ed - Bridget Quinn-Carey - is pooh bah of the Erie County (NY) Public Library System. And her main point is to proclaim:
"As a public library, we welcome everyone who comes through our doors. The library is a public institution, and one of the only remaining educational and cultural institutions free and open to all regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity — or housing situation. All have equal access to our treasures and knowledge, and to the facilities that house them."
Buffalo is very cold and very snowy this time of year - it is an extremely harsh climate in which to survive if you are poor or homeless. And it is inspiring to hear Quinn-Carey re-assert in so forthright a way what being a public institution implies. Her statement, however, reminds me of two things. First, it reminds me of how economically inhospitable the U.S. actually is for large numbers of people. Second, her statement reminds me of just how little public space actually remains. You will not be surprised to learn that I think the prevalence of economic hardship and the evisceration of public space are deeply political problems, each in a different way a threat to democracy.
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* I won't try to reconstruct the path other than to say 'thanks V!'

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