Magazine article American Libraries

Agreeing on Advocacy

Magazine article American Libraries

Agreeing on Advocacy

Article excerpt

Warm fuzzies about libraries have always been easy for me to take. Through the years, I've listened as ALA conference speakers--celebrities and authors and ordinary people--issued dozens of sentimental reflections and waxed poetic on the special place in their hearts where memories of their childhood libraries rest.

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I am also a huge fan of the way Julia Keller writes in the Chicago Tribune about books and the literary scene, so I was a little taken aback when I asked her to write something for American Libraries about books and she suggested instead that what was really on her mind was the way in which the sugar-coated library memories of well-intentioned people can actually do more harm than good. The central problem here, she observes (p. 50), is one of trivialization, perpetuating the kind of public perception that puts libraries right up there on the nostalgia shelf somewhere between silent cinema and Route 66. Viewing libraries as quaint is a short step from viewing them as unnecessary.

Take a look at this month's "Public Perception" (p. 42). Therein find the ignorant remarks of one George Elmore, who has obviously never set foot in a good contemporary library. Nevertheless, he believes that public libraries in Alachua County, Florida, should be eliminated because they cost $20 million a year and nothing significant happens in them. Published in the Gainesville Sun March 3, his rant caused a hubbub on ALA's governing Council discussion list before other residents of the county wrote to the newspaper to declare the uselessness of Mr. …

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