Stephen Henighan’s “Treason of the Librarians,” Geist 100, is an elegy. Our town library is a historic building with nineteenth-century woodwork; it housed a genuine sixteenth-century conquistador’s helmet and chain mail shirt, which my children learned was a hauberk. The armour used to be front and centre but now has been stored away, considered too old-fashioned for the new look of the library. I frequent the book sales at our local library because they are getting rid of wonderful books. The epiphany Mr. Henighan describes in finding a book next to the one you were searching for can also come with a mis-thumbing of the card catalogue. The cards no longer exist in any of our libraries in eastern Maine. At home we have a wall of books stacked two deep, and my now-grown children used to come from the library with boxes of books. We can only do our best to keep the love of the book alive. It seems to me quite unusual that Henighan would hide the name of the university library whose acquisitions policies he criticizes (No.100). To do so papers over the practices and lets other libraries know that they can get away with it with a mere slap on the wrist from cultural critics. Stephen Henighan responds: Like any journalist, I reserve the right to protect my sources. If I revealed the university’s name, I would risk exposing the people who provided me with some of the details included in the column. Policies at Dystopia U., while more extreme than at some other institutions, are not appreciably different in their essence, making it easy to imagine a near future in which all university libraries will be like the one I describe.
Read Stephen Henighan’s “Treason of the Librarians” in Geist 100 or at geist.com.