There was some chatter in various library venues last week about a guest column in a Florida paper called Pull the Plug on the Library. The Library Journal and a couple of blog places were critical of the column. I missed these, but fortunately a kind reader sent it on to me. I'm always grateful for the kindness of strangers. The Floridian respondents were mostly critical, and the only intelligent response showing any support for the Library Plugpuller was a letter to the editor a few days later pointing out some problems with library financing, which very well might be the case.
If I hadn't done some research and was pretty sure that the Plugpuller runs a company that paves stuff rather than being an undercover librarian himself , I would swear that he was a plant by the ALA. I still think he might be. This is definitely the sort of critic that the ALA and libraries in general should love. Some of the respondents did a good job of trying to defend the public libraries down there in Florida in serious terms, but they hardly need defense from this guy. Consider some of his attacks on the library.
"With the advent of the Internet and Google, virtually no serious research is carried on in the library stacks."
One commenter on the original article noted that public libraries were never places for serious research. That's no doubt true down in Florida, but I do know of a few public libraries more than capable of supporting serious research. The real question is, does the Plugpuller think any serious research is done on Google? I like Google as much as the next librarian, but I've yet to do any "serious research" there. I'd be willing to wager (and I only bet on sure things) that the Plugpuller doesn't know really know what serious research entails.
He doesn't know much about books, either. "Books to take home? They are almost free at Hospice, Goodwill, Pet Rescue and other charitable outlets. At garage sales on any Saturday, $5 will buy anybody a year's worth of recreational, if not educational, reading."
Apparently the Plugpuller is one of those types who think the main purpose of books is to furnish a room, and, if the books at Goodwill and garage sales are anything like I imagine, a room in a house trailer at that, which, according to this "serious research" I did on "the Internet and Google" represent a pretty high proportion of the housing down there in Florida. I can understand a guy not wanting to pay for the public library because he's cheap, but it's hard to take an opinion on books seriously from someone who obviously doesn't read them. Subliterate rubes have their place in a free country--apparently, paving roads and such--but we certainly should be skeptical of their political opinions.
He has some other equally strange notions, like just providing free laptops for those on the other end of the digital divide and letting them go to Starbucks to connect to the Internet. I suppose he would advocate the taxpayers picking up the T-mobile bill as well.
His knowledge of academic libraries is possibly less than of public libraries. Consider, for example, this quote. "Of course, I am not talking about the libraries in the schools or university. They would still be available, and, as you know, the massive university libraries are available to any Florida resident." This is another sign that we are dealing with someone with absolutely no knowledge of books, education, or research, for the simple truth is that there are no massive university libraries in Florida.
Obviously the Plugpuller is one of the subliterate citizens the public library was originally designed to help by allowing them the opportunity to educate themselves at public expense. Unfortunately, he hasn't availed himself of either the educational or recreational offerings of his public library, and in his case it seems clear that he hasn't used the Internet and Google for educational purposes, either. If the commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty, then I certainly wouldn't want to live in Gainesville, Florida. Actually, I wouldn't want to live there under any circumstances, but that's just me.
I know, I know, the public library's not just about education anymore and promoting the educational mission is so boring and they have to reach out to everyone and make themselves all things to all people. It appears those Florida librarians need to do a better job of reaching out to the subliterate rube demographic, which I assume is pretty big down there. Perhaps the subliterate rubes like to play Guitar Hero.