Monday, June 09, 2008

Library Daycare

Guest commentary by Postmodern Conservative.

On my way to work I stopped by my local library to drop some items in the book return slot and found both doors and a couple of windows boarded up. According to some people nearby, kids had knocked them out with rocks.

In recent years I've seen the place became a daycare center for kids waiting for their parents after school. I've often encountered gangs of loud and ill-mannered adolescents hanging around the entrance, who like to occasionally hassle and intimidate other (well-behaved) children. I had to up put with plenty of that in my youth, but never around the library. But things have changed, and public institutions seem bent on feeding the problems that plague them.

Perhaps what annoys me most is the fact that there are multiple computer banks most of which are used by young people to surf the internet or play online games. It's tax-supported entertainment. And considering just how ubiquitous PCs and the internet is today, I can't imagine the justification for it. Pay phones, for instance, have been taken out of most public places because cell phones are so common. And you can be sure all the loud kids at the library have cell phones—it's the only way their parents get in touch with them. Of course, libraries have long provided useless media for young people, like trashy books and magazines and the so-called "graphic novels." When I was growing up in the 1970s and early '80s I liked comic books (when they were still largely aimed at kids) but I didn't expect my library to stock them anymore that I expected to go there to watch television.

This is another example of the hazards of "public" institutions. If it were a private library, with even a token membership fee, I doubt it would keep out any of the deserving residents—those who are serious about reading and studying—while it might give the rock-throwing juveniles a reason to congregate somewhere else. It's an old lesson of civilization that as soon as you make anything "free" you provide an open invitation to freeloaders and riff-raff. The people who really could make the best use of these things are gradually driven off.