The Library Paradigm:
Libraries are special because they are at once communitarian, libertarian,
and models for sustainability.
They are communitarian in the economic sense because they are built on
solidarity. A community pools its resources in order to share them.
Libraries are libertarian in the social/intellectual sense (civil libertarian)
because of the ethic of intellectual freedom, which says that all ideas should
be included and nothing censored.
This combination of economic communitarianism and social/intellectual
libertarianism creates the ideal support system for a democratic society,
because the library provides everyone with access to ideas and provides
access to every idea.
In addition, libraries are models for sustainable systems. By following the
"borrow, don't buy" ethic, libraries provide an alternative to consumerism,
an alternative to environmentally unsound overproduction and spiritually
And libraries are further exciting because they need to be changed. They tend
to leave out alternative or street-level materials; there is presently a
tendency toward privatization of services and functions (with attendant
barriers to access); libraries and library organizations need their
decision-making processes democratized; access to local community
information in libraries needs to be improved; in general, libraries tend
to depart routinely from their founding principles as they struggle for a
handhold in the environment of an increasingly neoliberal political economy
and an increasingly reactionary social climate. We need to advance the
Library Paradigm of information organization, preservation and access, to
freshly propagate the idea of the library in society in terms of its
Notwithstanding their imperfections, libraries serve as a rare example of
beautiful ideals actually functioning successfully in the world. This
means that libraries should serve as a model for other institutions and
endeavors. We need to spread the Library Spirit across society and teach
it, as a model for positive change beyond the walls of libraries and
throughout all contexts of information, communication, and learning. This
is the Library Paradigm, and we can make it grow.
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