Keeping Libraries Public by David Atkins

Keeping Libraries Public
by David Atkins

An editorial by yours truly is appearing in this morning's Ventura County Star:

Keep Our Libraries Out of Corporate Hands

When Benjamin Franklin founded America's first public library and Thomas Jefferson sold his entire private library for the use of the people's representatives in Congress, they could scarcely have foreseen the day their descendants would send into reverse the process they proudly set in motion.

Following the Founding Fathers' examples, private citizens began to bequeath their collections and their fortunes to establish public libraries across America. That tradition of publicly held access to information, made available by the people and for the people, continued unabated until very recent history.

Today, sadly, many American cities are abandoning the proud tradition begun by Franklin and Jefferson in a paroxysm of radical pro-privatization ideology. They are placing public libraries in corporate hands, despite strong community backlashes against doing so.

These cities are bowing to an ideology so radical that it cannot properly be called "conservative," unless by "conservative" one means hearkening back to the days of debtors' prisons and the absence of flush toilets.

Read on for the whole thing. Several cities in Ventura County have already privatized their libraries, and at least two others are considering doing so. Library privatization is a quiet scourge that is happening under the radar of a national-issues-obsessed public. Citizens need to find out if this sort of thing is happening in their own backyards, and agitate against it if need be.

The City of Ventura's library hangs in the balance, with a City Council divided among 3 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 1 conservative-leaning Decline-to-State. With three seats up for grabs in a crucial City Council election happening in just a few days, the balance of power could shift dramatically. Despite the voices who insist that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, a Republican shift in the City Council will likely mean a privatized library. A Democratic shift will mean it stays in public hands. If nothing changes, the fate of the library is uncertain.

Elections have consequences, and it does matter which party takes office--even in officially "non-partisan" races.