To argue that the future of the US public library depends on a commitment to the library as a place within the public sphere for the intellectual development of a community primarily through books and reading, where service to the public is framed by professional librarians.
The paper uses supportive literature from within and outside librarianship to provide an alternative perspective to Michael Sullivan's Public Libraries' article of 2003, which argues that the future of the public library is fragile because of its inflexibility before the pressures of the internet, failing public commitment, and a potential shortage of librarians.
Public libraries continue to be identified as places for reading and books. Despite the public's embrace of the internet for ready reference, there are still questions best answered through print reference materials and professional assistance. Through active collection development, libraries remain places of heterogeneity and serendipitous discovery. The fragility of the public library is attributable to the incursion of a market‐capitalist model of service into an institution of the public sphere. Deprofessionalization threatens to lose a corps of professionals committed to values of civil liberties and community.
This paper suggests that the future of the public library depends on its commitment to being a place for books and reading, as an alternative to a model of service based on the Internet, the bookstore, and a paraprofessional staff. The paper should be of use to those who provide, design, manage, and teach models of service in the public library.
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