Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Privatization vs. "Sacred" Public Libraries

The New York Times reports that a private company, Library Systems & Services, has been hired to manage public libraries in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas. CEO Frank E. Pezzasnite describes the resistance he has encountered to such privatization with frustrated sarcasm: "There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries. Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization."

The reaction has been mostly led by patrons who say they cannot imagine Santa Clarita with libraries run for profit.

“A library is the heart of the community,” said one opponent, Jane Hanson. “I’m in favor of private enterprise, but I can’t feel comfortable with what the city is doing here.”

... The suggestion that a library is different — and somehow off limits to the outsourcing fever — has been echoed wherever L.S.S.I. has gone.

... “Public libraries invoke images of our freedom to learn, a cornerstone of our democracy,” Deanna Hanashiro, a retired teacher, said at the most recent city council meeting.
Whatever one may think of Mr. Pezzasnite's business, he has described an overlooked phenomena. Why books and the libraries that contain them are regarded as "somehow ... sacred" is precisely what the Iconic Books Project tries to describe, on this blog, through our symposia, and in our publications...

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