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January 5, 2007

Filed under: politics»issues»education

Alexandria's Just Down the Road, Actually

Wheat writes:

Calling anyone in Fairfax with a library card
Thursday, 1.4.2007
An amusing editorial about a new initiative of the Fairfax County Public Library system to do away with any books that don't get checked out regularly, classics included.

I tell you. Take a few weeks off the news and the net in general and the world reveals itself as the strange place it really is. I'm feeling the strong desire to stick my nose back in a book and pretend I don't notice.

I respond, in comments:

Speaking as someone with a Fairfax library card, it doesn't bother me much.

As someone pointed out, the point of a library is the democratization of the written word, so that people who can't afford to spend $12-$25 on a new book can still read and keep up with the cultural zeitgeist. Miller claims that book chains bombard customers with "inexpensive choices" including mp3 audiobooks, which are words spoken by someone who has never known the financial crunch where a $7 paperback--much less a trade or a hardback, whether it be pulp or fine literature. I spend $10-$50 on books every week nowadays, but at one point I had to scratch for change in order to afford reading material. It's not a cheap habit. If someone wants to read the classics, there are several used bookstores around Fairfax Co. where they can pick up a copy for a buck fifty, or Amazon will sell used books at about that price.

John J. Miller is the same guy who wrote the "top 50 conservative rock songs" that was roundly ridiculed a few months back. In that light, I'm particularly drawn to where he writes: "There's a fine line between an institution that aims to edify the public and one that merely uses tax dollars to subsidize the recreational habits of bookworms." (emphasis mine) In other words, Miller feels like he (and conservative pundits like him) stand at the bulwark of determining where good and bad culture lie--particularly when it comes to those who can't afford books on a regular basis. How dare those layabouts read a "Mitch Albom tearjerker" or "whatever fickle taste" they might have, instead of dedicating themselves to the manly prose of Hemingway?

Maybe it's my librarian father rubbing off on me, but I think we (and by we, I particularly mean the culture warriors at Opinion Journal) should be less concerned about what people are reading, and more encouraging toward the development of a reading habit in the first place. ...and, sweet mother of mercy, this probably should have been a blog post and not a comment.

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