The writings of the wise are the only riches our posterity cannot squander.'- Walter Savage Landor
Fortunately for him, Landor did not live to witness today's generation of librarians.
And unfortunately for us, Landor was mistaken.
Always on Watch has this interesting entry and discussion thread about the dumbing-down of libraries.
Based on a Washington Post article
You can't find "Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings" at the Pohick Regional Library anymore. Or "The Education of Henry Adams" at Sherwood Regional. Want Emily Dickinson's "Final Harvest"? Don't look to the Kingstowne branch.
It's not that the books are checked out. They're just gone. No one was reading them, so librarians took them off the shelves and dumped them.''
Among the books removed were: The Works of Aristotle, by Aristotle, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway, Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, by Maya Angelou, Jane Eyre. by Charlotte Bronte, Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Aeneid by Virgil, and The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.
Now I don't think there is much danger of books like To Kill a Mockingbird or Maya Angelou's works being phased out, considering that they are an integral part of the multiculti, PC curriculum of today's schools. But I do worry about the deemphasis on the real classics like Aristotle, Virgil, Marlowe, George Eliot, and so on.
The troubling thing, to me, is the trend of making libraries just another venue for people to hang out and consume ephemeral popular entertainment, via the Internet or DVDs or music or paperbacks. When I was a kid, we would often go and browse the magazines and paperbacks at the now-vanished corner drugstore. Maybe the owner would scold us for reading the magazines without paying for them, and if we really wanted to read them, we had to pony up the change to buy them. In those days, paperbacks were dirt-cheap, and so were most magazines. In any case, none of us expected the town library, much less the school library to provide our junk-food reading material. The idea of the library providing crude X-rated comic books to patrons would have seemed absurd to us then.
But a couple of years ago, the Denver Public Library, which had been carrying explicit Spanish-language comics called fotonovelas, was at the center of a controversy when the public became aware of the issue.
The library pulled its 6,569 fotonovelas off the shelves Aug. 4 after press reports on the adult comic books. After a staff review, four of the series were determined to be "inappropriate for the collection because of their consistent portrayal of sexually explicit content."
Books from the remaining fotonovela series will be returned to the shelves, the library said.
Still, critics said, the issue was unlikely to disappear, given the complaints about the library system's move to replace English books at some branches with Spanish, as well as what they called its lax policies on adult materials. '
And needless to say, the race card was pulled out and flourished; in this instance, by one Lisa Duran, the director of something called Rights for All People:
My biggest concern is that the people pushing for the removal of fotonovelas have couched their arguments in xenophobic and racist rhetoric," she said. "They seem to be much more angry about who's using the library and not what's in it.
(Presumably Lisa is one of those legions of Hispanic-Americans who oppose illegal immigration just like the rest of us. I know that such people exist, by hearsay.)
But the larger problem is the dumbing-down of our society, which in turn is part of the overall attack on our historic and traditional culture. There is unquestionably a move to dismantle our traditional culture and make it less 'Eurocentric'. Of course if we eliminate anything which is too Eurocentric, we remove much of the core of our culture, in our literature, history, arts, and folkways. All that is left is the lowest-common-denominator 'culture' of MTV and Hollywood and the 'celebrity' culture. There is nothing left on which our culture can be based, and so the culture is impoverished by being reduced to the popular, ephemeral culture of the latest movie, video game, or fad.
And immigration does tie into this issue: were it not for the multicultural dogma, we would not be seeing a wholesale abandonment of the achievements of our ancestors. The fact that our cultural heritage is 'not inclusive enough' is the reason given for marginalizing or censoring it. Multiculturalism does not conduce to sustaining a unifying culture, since it dictates that 'all cultures are equal.' So fotonovelas are equal to Shakespeare, and rap 'music' is equal to Mozart.
Libraries were traditionally repositories of knowledge, first of all, and of the finer literary achievements of our culture. In the past many people from lower economic levels, or from homes which didn't possess many books, were introduced to great literature, and acquired a lifelong love of reading and knowledge, which in turn led them to a successful career and life. Many people have had their tastes broadened and their world enlarged by exposure to books at the library which they might otherwise not have encountered. Now this function is being diminished.
For some years, I've noticed that the libraries everywhere feature 'Banned Books' during a special week or month celebrating 'free speech'. Oftentimes, however, the banned books are the most leftist and politically-correct books imaginable, and the bias of the librarians is evident. For example, the Bible is one of the books that has been banned; I can't imagine most libraries featuring the Bible in their banned books display. They seem to emphasize the radical leftist books. If they seriously think that leftist ideas are in any way censored or excluded from the marketplace of ideas, they must not ever watch network TV, Hollywood movies, or read the mainstream media. But still they persist with the notion that Political Correctness is some kind of persecuted, marginalized underdog, when in fact PC is the ruling tyrant of our day.
Again, the librarians' accustomed liberal/leftist bias is seen in their 'tolerance' regarding things like public display of pornography on the library computers, or the use of their libraries by homeless people as a hangout and bathing facility.
Look at the rules of conduct for one library.
Twenty years ago, would anybody have dreamed that it would be necessary to create rules forbidding bathing in the library restrooms? Or entering the library with firearms, knives, and other weapons?
And these rules, as far as I've observed in my travels, are more honored in the breach than in the observance.
Some libraries are worse than others, but in most, rules of conduct are largely ignored, as homeless people set up residence there, gaggles of teenagers gather to have rowdy conversations, and in my former hometown, a dozen or so Hispanic men congregated daily, monopolizing one whole section of the first floor, bringing a spread of food, and talking loudly in Spanish.
Then there was the case of the homeless man who sued the Morristown, N.J. library and won.
That case and other such cases involving libraries and troublesome patrons are detailed here.
It's another example of the broken windows theory: the idea that when a broken window is ignored and left unrepaired, the whole building and then the neighborhood falls to decay. So when a broken rule or two or three are ignored, pretty soon everybody has it figured out: the rules are not taken seriously, nobody will enforce them, and thus anything goes. Soon the rulebreakers are in control, while the rule-abiding people have to go elsewhere to escape the chaos, or resign themselves to it. Another obvious illustration of this theory is the abandonment of our borders.
But standards, rules, borders, they're all so elitist, so yesterday, so Eurocentric.
It's all a manifestation of the prevailing liberalism of our time: it's deemed unfair and elitist to demand conformance to rules. Only legalistic prudes want rules enforced, and besides, who are we to judge others' behavior? After all, homeless people have to bathe somewhere, and why not in the library? And who are we to judge those who want to view graphic porn openly on the library computers? Or read trashy 'fotonovelas' in the library? Or turn the library into a hangout and free sidewalk cafe?
The dumbing-down of libraries is just a part of the dumbing-down of our society, part of the leftist war against all standards, against excellence and achievement and civilization, really. Excellence, high achievement, such things are too exclusive, too hierarchical, and to leftists this is intolerable. Anything which does not 'include' everybody, which is not demotic and egalitarian, cannot be allowed.
The mission of libraries should not be to provide today's ephemeral, cheap, entertainment at no cost to the public; the misson should be to collect what is worthy, excellent, and deserving of preservation, and to broaden the tastes of the public, rather than cater to the masses via popular works which are available everywhere.
Instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator, why not encourage a broadening of tastes, towards a really inclusive culture, based on the best achievements of the past as well as the present?
If our libraries as well as the educational establishment are determined to discard the past and exalt the gutter culture of the present, then who will preserve what is truly worth preserving? I think it may be up to private individuals to try to preserve the essential works of literature. I've lately come to regard old books, written in the pre-PC era, as worth their weight in gold. Such books are the only true corrective to much of the nonsense and lies being propagated today. Sometimes it's a needed whiff of oxygen in the stifling atmosphere of PC to read the words of someone writing in a saner and healthier time. I turn to my old books again and again for replenishment and for confirmation of the truths which are now being denied.
God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages.- William Ellery Channing