Library Prophets and Library Pornographers

My old friend Stephen Good has written a chapter in the book Last one out turn off the lights : is this the future of American and Canadian libraries? from Scarecrow Press. Thanks to a friendly western librarian, I was faxed a bootleg copy, and I’ve scanned the fax and turned it into a PDF so that it can reach a wider audience in the library that is the web.

Stephen is one of the smartest people I know. About ten years ago, though, he went off and Found God. As I related earlier in this space:

At times it’s been a challenge— it’s hard to be a Godless heathen when you’re corresponding with someone who is prone to starting sentences like “I remember what Jesus said about bowling…” But we’ve worked out a common ground (he leaves out direct God references and I leave out my constant questioning as to the actual existence of God), and I’m sure we’ll be friends until we die.”

When the fax arrived a few weeks ago, I started to read it, but when the heavy “prophet” talk started, I set it down — oh oh, I thought, here comes the God Stuff. Today at lunch I picked it up again and read it all the way through.

I’m glad I did.

Stephen’s chapter turns out to be one of the best essays on libraries, technology and the web I’ve ever read. Here’s how he concludes:

Add to that a desire to be fashionable, the self-loathing of the middle-class elite, and the desire to act as if technology itself is liberating when in fact it perpetuates privilege under the guise of pulling the dispossessed into a bold Star Trek future and you have librarians who are willing to destroy the reality and destiny of libraries so that no one will think they aren’t “with it.” We need to fight for our right to be traditional, to acquire books and copyright-free electronic information, and to have a building with comfy furniture, chess sets, peace and quiet, and of course, story time.

Every librarian, library patron, and, for that matter, technology-obsessed politician, should read the entire chapter.

Stephen has achieved a remarkable feat, synthesizing the best of his secular self with the best of his religious self; it’s a compelling read.