[iDC] Public Library thread

Kathleen Hulser kathleen.hulser at gmail.com
Thu Jun 30 16:06:50 UTC 2011

Response to Shannon Mattern Libraries & Epistemology

Shannon makes a key point by suggesting that the politics of information has
to be part of the discussion of the future of these places. The physical
library as a site poses different issues in New York City than in Lagos, and
 differences are just as great when contrasting the urban significance and
public libraries situated in thinly populated areas lacking any other public

I think we should never lose sight of the importance of face-to-face
gathering points that are open and public -- yes, call them "libraries and
media centers" in today's world. In democratic societies to date, the key
pretext for keeping libraries open and funded has been the educational and
informational mandate: the cultural imperative seems to be less of a
priority and more subject to budget cuts and political manipulation, so one
can't trust community centers, etc. to remain open public spaces. See, for
example, the discussion, of public spaces and gatherings in Lisa Keller's
excellent comparative history "Triumph of Order: Democracy and Public Space
in New York and London: which probes constraints on outdoor free speech in
the American and British tradition. Those free speech issues always haunt
discussions of libraries and epistemology, since assumptions about free
inquiry are inextricable from political parameters of the public sphere.

Kathleen Hulser, public historian, New-York Historical Society
"The political and commercial morals of the United  States are not merely
food for laughter, they are an entire banquet."       Mark Twain.
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