During a speech before the American Library Association yesterday Hillary Clinton, quite unsurprisingly, portrayed American libraries as being under attack from an uncouth and barbaric administration that is out to destroy our cultural institutions. I quote from her remarks:
Hillary said, "I believe that libraries and democracy go hand in hand. That’s why it’s so hard to believe that in 2017 in America, libraries are actually under attack from our own government. I’m told that even here at this conference, some of you have had to duck out of sessions to call Congress and urge them not to eliminate federal funding for libraries. The administration has proposed doing so in the budget, and that is not only shortsighted, it is deeply disturbing. It’s like something out of ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ a book you can’t keep on your shelves lately. And it’s not just libraries, it’s also the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. That would have a disproportionate, adverse impact on rural and underserved communities.”
Civilized people want books and magazines to be preserved and available to the public. But this doesn't mean that all public libraries function well or should even be provided with the funds to continue. Some should be shuttered. I speak from experience.
Many libraries do a great job and serve the public. The Mount Pleasant Library, which I frequent to do research for a book, has helpful and well-informed librarians and patrons come to read and borrow books. It does a brisk business and yet is always quiet so that one can read. It has lovely murals from the WPA, and, while I wish it had a more extensive collection, I always like working there.
But there is nothing sacrosanct about a library per se. By contrast, another library I've had to use for research in DC is positively Hogarthian. I was told that this is because it is really an adjunct to a nearby homeless shelter, giving people a place to doze during library hours. In the displays and essay contests sponsored by this library, a decidedly left-leaning bias is easily discernible. I'd love to see us save the taxpayer some money by shuttering this operation rather than refurbishing it (that is currently in progress).
So call me barbarian but I feel, based on experience, that informed culling of our public library system would be an excellent thing. But here's one surety: Hillary Clinton didn't have to beg too hard to get the librarians to call members of Congress to lobby for more library spending. They want to keep their jobs, even if they work for a library that does little in the way of preserving books or helping people find them.
The nasty reference to Fahrenheit 451 is typical of the post-election behavior of Mrs. Clinton, who has proclaimed herself a member of The Resistance. She should spend some time in a good library and learn to tell the difference between a sci-fi dystopia and a decent country full of decent people.