Education and the empowerment of marginalized people are essential values for me. They form the core of my ethics, my morality. This is why I chose to go into public library service.
For the past several decades, we’ve witnessed a steady and dramatic increase in the gap between those who hold the greatest wealth and power, and those who don’t. More wealth lies in the hands of fewer people than ever before in the modern world, and more people in the middle and lower classes are struggling harder just to get by. Fewer companies control larger portions of industry and the market. We’re witnessing the destructive consequences of this.
Those who possess wealth and power have a vested interest in holding on to it and in guarding it against those who would compete with them for it. Over the past several decades, those who control the purse strings have been enforcing changes in our nation’s educational milieu and social empowerment systems to produce the kinds of workers who will fit harmlessly into the economic and social structures that reinforce the wealthy and powerful in their power and wealth. The last thing powerful people want is to lift up those who would threaten their position.
The last thing they want is the kind of universal education and social empowerment that public libraries hold as a core value.
I recently read an interesting post about the Detroit Public Library:
Public Libraries and the Conscience of Community Living by Anna Clark (posted on Isak on February 19, 2013)
In it, there’s a wonderful quote from Ralph R. Shaw:
“Public Librar[ies] had [their] beginnings just as the industrial revolution was getting into full stride; when we had begun to think of using conveyers and lifting devices for handling materials instead of using man as a beast of burden. This freed man to use his mind instead of his back. But minds needed nurture if they were to be used effectively. So the concept of man as an intellectual being grew, and with it grew greater need for understanding and compassion and wisdom, for opportunities for continued intellectual growth for every man. Here the free public library provided a unique medium for supporting the growth of each literate human being. It provided opportunity for him to develop in any direction he chose, at his own pace. He was free to have intimate contact with all the people who could help to contribute to his aspirations and his achievement—whether or not they lived in his town or in his time.”
Despite undiminished popularity with the general public, public libraries are frequently under attack by local government and private interests. The above quote explains this apparent contradiction perfectly: corporations and government don’t necessarily want people who think and create anymore. They want people who obey. They want people who function as beasts of burden in cubicles.
Oh, how far we’ve fallen… History repeats itself…
As I’ve stated before: questioning and critical thought are anathema to mindless obedience. Curiosity is anathema to fear. Universal education and social empowerment are anathema to those whose wealth and power is vested in the status quo.