Our Last Commons?
Libraries, Politics, and Civil Conversation
Author: John Budd
Expected: Winter 2021/2022
How do individuals in our country converse about thorny political matters? We know that
these kinds of discussions can be fraught, but there are ways that the conversations can be
thoughtful and civil. In this book, The Last Commons, ways to ensure civil conversations are
explored deeply. A major thrust of the book is that the library (writ large) can be the locus for
informed conversations, typified by evidence and truth. We begin with a description of the
library—what it is, what purposes it can serve, what contributions it can make to civil discourse.
That chapter is followed by two more chapters that illustrate serious, considered political
commentary (partisan polemical works are not included, so as to avoid any semblance of
incivility). One concentrates on conservatism and presents the thoughts and words of some of
these serious commentators. The second focuses on liberalism and those thoughts and words that
represent serious consideration. As we will see, the theme of liberty runs throughout the
Another chapter explores what discourse is, how discourse theory can inform civil
conversations, and what kinds of discursive practices achieve the goal of civility. This is,
admittedly, a tall order, but it is absolutely necessary to fulfill the promise of the book. The
chapter further presents examples of topics that are components of political conversations today,
as well as substantive sources that can inform those conversations. The final chapter returns to
the library. The spirit and substance of providing a venue for civil conversation are discussed at
some length. The conclusion presents how the library can be the exemplar for civil conversation.
The audience for the book is not limited to librarians, but extends to all who are interested in, and
committed to, reasoned discussion of the political issues that divide us today.
John M. Budd is Professor Emeritus with the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies of the University of Missouri. He has also been on the faculties of Louisiana State University and the University of Arizona. He has served as President of the Association for Library and Information Science Education and has been on a number of committees in the American Library Association and the Association of Information Science and Technology. He is the author of approximately 150 publications, including The Changing Academic Library, Self Examination, and Framing Library Instruction. He resides in Columbia, Missouri.