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Late Nite FDL: Let’s Hear It for the Librarians

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New York is truly the greatest city in the world. That’s always an easy conclusion to reach after spending a week there (and eating a week’s worth of food there) as I just did.

I didn’t have any Internet access and only watched a few scattered minutes of the local news channel, NY1. I learned from NY1 that, while I had no fear of a Caribbean plot to destroy JFK, I should have been concerned about the spike in near-misses at local NY airports. Go ahead and add the FAA to the list of departments that has gone to pot under the Bush Administration.

The only other piece of news I caught all week was excellent, though. The City Council and Mayor Bloomberg delivered their 2008 budget early. Good for New Yorkers, I thought. Also, good for property owners, who will have a healthy tax cut.

But then NY1 ran a poll with extremely satisfying results. It showed that while New Yorkers were happy about the tax cuts, they were just about as happy that the budget will extend the hours of all the public libraries.

In a victory for [Council Speaker Christine] Quinn, the budget allows for six-day a week public library service throughout the five boroughs.

“We in the council proposed the idea of over three years phasing in six day library service,” she said. “But it is really beyond our greatest expectations that the budget we have reached today doesn’t get us six day libraries in three year, it does it immediately in one year, and that is a real benefit to New Yorkers.”

I brought my new copy of Al Gore’s Assault on Reason on this trip and read it cover to cover. For anybody reading sites like FDL regularly, there’s not too much in it that you don’t already know. But it is excellent, nonetheless, and any book that ends with a stirring defense of Net Neutrality deserves the highest praise.

In the book, Gore reminds me that while the phone companies and media conglomerates were folding like cheap tents in the face of pressure from the administration, it is librarians who have been standing firm in the front lines of the fight to preserve our civil liberties.

Coincidentally, I noticed this article in yesterday’s USA Today, which describes how libraries aren’t satisfied with defending our liberties; they are tackling the issues of poverty and health that other government agencies have been either unwilling or unable to handle.

Al Gore is correct when he writes that there is an assault on reason and that a well-educated, well-informed and well-connected citizenry is our only hope of saving this republic from the destination that lies at the end of the path on which Bush has guided us. Libraries are a vital ingredient in that equation. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to see the greatest city in the world recognizes that, too.

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