Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Library of Babel

"Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library," said Lady Bird Johnson, but she would have been puzzled by recent events at the Fayetteville Public Library. We are all very proud of our new facility, but something is not quite right. I'm not sure if that's because of bad policies or no policies.

I've mentioned before my concerns about the secret criminal background checks on employees and the plan to sell books online in competition with local independent bookstores. Today comes a report from the Street Jazz blog that library personnel declared that citizens could not exercise their First Amendment right to petition on public property, shooing away someone standing outside on public property to collect signatures for a ballot initiative. I am outraged.

"I suppose I could write something about freedom of speech, and about organizations becoming terminally pretentious," said Richard Drake, "but I think the Fayetteville library already said it for me." Exactly.

The library staff are supposed to be guided by a public city board, and that board is responsible to the people. Let's have some answers as to how this could happen. We deserve that -- and better.

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