New from LJP: Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library

New from Library Juice Press:

Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library:
How Postmodern Consumer Capitalism Threatens Democracy, Civil Education and the Public Good

By Ed D’Angelo
November 2006.
139. paperback. $18
ISBN 978-0-9778617-1-2

Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library is a philosophical and historical analysis of how the rise of consumerism has led to the decline of the original mission of public libraries to sustain and promote democracy through civic education. Through a reading of historical figures such as Plato, Helvetius, Rousseau, and John Stuart Mill, the book shows how democracy and even capitalism were originally believed to depend upon the moral and political education that public libraries (and other institutions of rational public discourse) could provide. But as capitalism developed in the 20th century it evolved into a postmodern consumerism that replaced democracy with consumerism and education with entertainment. Public libraries have mistakenly tried to remain relevant by shadowing the rise of consumerism, but have instead contributed to the rise of a new barbarism and the decline of democracy.

Praise from Henry Giroux:

“We live in dangerous times as a relentless war is being waged by market fundamentalists, political extremists, and religious zealots against all those public spheres guided by democratic values and ideals. Ed D’Angelo’s book is a brilliant recounting of public memory and a spirited defense of one of the nation’s most important public goods, the public library. Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library is a riveting example of the language of critique and recovery, critical engagement and possibility. It is a must read for anyone who takes democracy seriously, is willing to fight for one of the country’s most important democratic public spheres, and at the same time learn something about the history and importance of the democratic function of public libraries in America. Everyone should read this book.”

Order Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library through your book jobber or buy it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Rory Litwin
Library Juice Press, LLC

2 comments on “New from LJP: Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library

  1. Thanks to D’Angelo. The business model is not what the public wants. It is something spun out of librarians’ ivory towers. The public wants the library as ‘sacred space’, something special and unique, not a circus, not a bookstore, not a town meeting hall–they want the library to be a library—just ask them, they will tell you.
    The marketing concept left over from the latter part of 20th century is not working for libraries. Libraries need to embrace their true mission–we are not SELLING.
    A Librarian

  2. Thank you, Ed, for a great read! Well said, with righteous fury. Your book sits proudly next to my copy of Earl Lee’s _Libraries in the Age of Mediocrity_, which you have matched as far as producing an intellectually engaging read. I hope you expand on what you’ve written here, it’s a brilliant start. One thing that struck me time and again reading your book was that it reminded me often of Neil Postman’s arguments in his book _Amusing Ourselves To Death_; A lot of what Postman had to say would gel well with your present argument. He was an unapologetically old fashioned humanist whose writings I know have touched many of us in PLG/SRRT circles, and quoting him would resonate well in an expanded edition of this book someday soon. Herbert I. Schiller’s _Information Inequality_ also springs to mind, for me at least.

    Well done, this book is a definite “must read”!

    Just like when I read Buschman’s last work, though, I find myself kicking myself saying “damn, I should’ve written THAT!” 😉 Oh, well, maybe one of these days. I feel I’m still too fresh out of library school with too little professional experience behind me yet to really speak up just yet, though.

    So, Thanks, too, Ed, for saying out loud, what a lot of us humanistic librarians too often say only amongst our friends and closest associates these days.

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