The term Adult Literature has taken on new meaning for patrons of the New York Public libraries. Officials: Watching Porn at NYC Libraries Falls within First Amendment Rights, says a headline. Just what we need-a way to draw dirty old men to the public library.

Parents might want to make sure that their children don’t venture into these dens of iniquity unchaperoned!

What does this say about the state of libraries today? Christian Schneider of The Corner makes some comments:

Set aside for a moment the whole issue of whether people should be watching porn on public computers in public areas and turn to the broader issue: The mission of libraries has morphed into something completely unrecognizable.

In 1731, Benjamin Franklin founded the subscription-based Library Company of Philadelphia, which used the pooled subscription money to buy books (the company actually still exists). According to author William James Sidis, the public library as we know it originated in Boston in 1836. Public libraries were formed so that the public would have access to literature, no matter their income.

Schneider writes about the politically correct preaching of the exhibits and the free entertainment centers libraries have become (you wouldn’t believe the multimedia equipment!).  As a library user, I could only agree. But I can add that in Washington, D.C. the situation is far worse than what Schneider describes.

The Martin Luther Library in downtown Washington is positively Hogarthian. Homeless people find the MLK Library a home away from-well, the nearby homeless shelter-and snore their days away. There’s always at least one broken elevator. The folks at the periodical are not pleased to be asked to get periodical and rarely seem to have even a passing acquaintance with the written word. It takes nerve to use the restrooms because of safety concerns (to be fair, I’ve never had any problems, but I do have to summon my courage to enter one).

An essay contest on women role models at the King Library indicated that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a vast following composed entirely of young women for whom grammar and punctuation are foreign countries. Why post winning essays written in execrable language? Such essays are not models for anybody who desires to learn the basics of English usage.

A Carnegie-funded public library in my neighborhood is at the opposite end of the spectrum-there are knowledgeable librarians, people actually reading, and the general atmosphere of the old-fashioned library I knew as a child. What’s the difference? I asked one of the clerks and she said something to the effect that this library didn’t regard itself as an adjunct to a homeless shelter, as the King Library apparently does.

There are many fine libraries like this one (or I hope so), but I’d like to see some drastic funding cuts for libraries in general. They no longer serve their original purposes.