Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How to weather the Trump administration :: Head to the library

How to weather the Trump administration: Head to the library
LA Times: 11.10.2016 by David Kipen

Even now, in this riven country, after this whole entropically hideous year, most Americans still agree on at least one institution. Mercifully, it’s the one that may just save us: the public library.

Hear me out. In small towns and large, in red states and blue, libraries poll better across the political spectrum than any public trust this side of the fire department. In districts where millage increases don’t require a two-thirds vote (and frequently where they do, as in California) modest library bonds usually win.

If, as he claims, our new president really wants to invest in infrastructure, then America will need to build more than just roads and bridges. If Donald Trump is as smart as he insists he is, then he can prove it by strengthening our intellectual infrastructure. That means libraries — and he can start with one audacious symbolic act.

I’ve looked at libraries from at least four sides now, as a full-time book critic, a federal grantmaker (in a red administration!), a nonprofit lending librarian in an immigrant, working-class neighborhood, and on the faculty at UCLA. While midwifing the nonpartisan NEA’s one-city-one-book program, The Big Read, I visited more than 100 public libraries in 40-some states, with a fat deck of library cards in my desk now to prove it.

If all these experiences have taught me anything, it’s that librarians may be the only first responders holding the line between America and a raging national pandemic of absolutism. More desperately than ever, we need our libraries now, and all three of their traditional pillars: 1) education, 2) good reading and 3) the convivial refuge of a place apart. In other words, libraries may be the last coal we have left to blow on.

All the research out there — Census data, NEA reports, the Pew Research Center’s work on libraries and reading in low-income neighborhoods — all of it points toward reading enjoyment as the surest predictor of health, wealth and good citizenship. Readers volunteer more, vote more, even exercise more. And a recent Yale study categorically shows what most of us have long suspected: Readers live longer than nonreaders.  READ MORE @

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