Sunday, September 26, 2010

First They Privatized The Prisons...

Holy crap, when the fuck did we start privatizing public libraries?

I had NO idea there was even a company in existence like Library Systems & Services Inc., let alone that they operated five public libraries in Tennessee. You can see the list here.

This is such a supremely bad idea on so many levels I don’t know where to start. Let’s start with my entire aversion to the concept of privatization, the idea that a for-profit company can somehow manage a public institution like a library better and cheaper when their entire raison d’etre is to make a fucking profit. I never understood the logic. They’ll just cut corners by paying employees less or doing a crappier job. I mean, that’s the point: to make a profit. Someone always gets screwed along the way, and usually it’s too late when we figure out it’s us.

Call me old-fashioned, call me a DFH with an inherent mistrust of Corporate America, call me a radical who thinks there are some things that some rich asshole shouldn’t skim a profit from, but I find myself having an allergic, visceral reaction to the entire idea of privatizing the public good. It makes me sick to my stomach to think we’ve so cheapened the idea of the commons that we’ll privatize the public library without batting an eyelash. Just like we’ve privatized prisons without batting an eyelash, and that's not just a disaster waiting to happen, it's a disaster for communities already, right now, today.

This is just ripe for abuse. Imagine if the Sage of Wasilla had a corporate CEO, not a city librarian, to approach about censoring library books? Wonder how that would have ended?

This is Banned Book Week and I have to say, beyond just worrying about some local puritan challenging the availability of “Heather Has Two Mommies” or the “Harry Potter” series at the local library, we need to worry about the more nefarious systemic changes that can slowly encroach on our intellectual freedom. And privatizing libraries is one of those changes.