A viral "angriest librarian" explains why America needs libraries now more than ever

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/10/30/conan-the-librarian.html




Rich white people simply buy their books if they need books. The rest of you are takers.


When it comes to protecting civil society and open discourse, librarians are some of the biggest BAMFs around (the “F” part, in the positive sense, also applies in some cases.)


Andre Walker is a New York Observer columnist. The New York Observer that was owned and ruined by Jared Kushner.


He’s from the New York Observer, not the New Yorker.


I use the library constantly. I love my local library - the Salt Lake City Public Library’s main branch. I think it’s the most beautiful building in the city and it’s so well designed for it’s purpose. Noise levels vary throughout the building, creating a natural effect where some areas suggest you keep quiet so people can concentrate, while other areas are already noisy and busy so you can feel free to talk, making it great for meeting people and talking or studying in silence, whatever you want.

Recently I was homeless and staying with someone abusive, and it was extremely stressful and getting to sit in a comfy chair in the beautiful light streaming through the windows, using the library’s wifi to talk to friends - in that moment I felt so safe I feel a little traumatically bonded to that library.

I also really appreciate librarians though, because I’m familiar enough with the library’s collection and read enough books that I could easily have run out of things to read by now, just because I’d read all the books on the topics I know I’m interested in. I’ve all but memorized certain shelves. The librarian’s recommendations and displays give me suggestions I never would have considered before.

So yeah. Libraries good.


I very much hate to say this. But…

An urban librarian in a struggling neighborhood, like Chera Kowalski in Philadelphia’s Kensington, is just as likely to be saving lives by giving Narcan to overdosed patrons as she is to be recommending a new Young Adult series.

THIS IS WHY LIBRARIES ARE UNDER ATTACK. There is this perception that libraries are becoming homeless shelters and the last resort for the desperately poor. That they are a charity that serves only the poorest, most base among us. That if you can’t afford to have your own PC and internet connection or buy a book from a book store you take your broke ass down to the library.

And this is the problem. THIS IS NOT WHAT A LIBRARY SHOULD BE.

A Library is an outpost of civilization and learning that is open to all members of the community. There should be cultural events and open discussions and learning going on. There should be classes being taught, movies to be watched and discussed, and opportunities for enrichment and enlightenment which are available and accessible to everyone.

Availing yourself of the resources of the library should have NOTHING to do with the amount of money in your pocket or if you can afford to buy your own books.

And yet by focusing only on the needs of the have-nots and parents in the community, libraries are driving away the other components of the community, which is leading to apathy from many quarters as to the fate of the library.

If there is anything that is going to get wealthy and middle class people to participate in, support, and become a patrons of the libraries, it’s tales of homeless inhabitation, people surfing porn, and drug abuse…

(I’m not saying these stories are true. I am saying that this is the PR that is out there about libraries, from the supporters of the libraries.)


I found myself in a somewhat related situation in my college years. I was a bad day away from being homeless. Didn’t have money for the longest time to afford internet at home so i resorted to going to the library to be able to keep myself sane from the intense stress and depression i was going through at the time. Spent most of that time talking to friends online, but some of the computers had Photoshop so i spent a lot of time drawing, scanning some stuff i drew on paper, etc.

Without the library i think i would have been worse off and not sure what i would have done to keep myself from making worse decisions at that point in my life. Libraries are literal life savers.



First off, library usage is on the RISE motherfuckers. I SAID! First off, library usage is on the RISE motherfuckers.


Looks like some people are confused about the purpose of public libraries and their mission statement to serve the communities they’re in. Lets take this as a learning opportunity and see what these libraries themselves say what their mission statements are:

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.


Lincoln City Libraries fosters the power of reading and provides open access to all forms of information to enrich people’s lives every day.
—Lincoln City Libraries (NE)

Providence Public Library inspires lifelong education among all Rhode Islanders, fostering personal fulfillment and enhanced quality of life for an informed, enlightened and engaged citizenry.
—Providence Public Library (RI)

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s mission is to provide information, education, and technology to help the community live, learn, and grow.
—Toledo-Lucas County Public Library (OH)


Every library I frequent in my area of the world (suburban Massachusetts) is invariably buzzing with people. Anyone who says libraries are dead obviously hasn’t been in one.

Whenever I move I like to scout out all the local libraries to see which has the best atmosphere. I must say I was sad to move out of reach of Quincy’s impressive old building. That place has atmosphere in spades. Hingham has a great library too.


My public library does have the elements you’ve mentioned, bathrooms being used to bathe and shoot up, homeless carts and baggage around and inside of the building, and I have personally seen men looking up escorts and porn on public computers.

What this means to me is that so much more is needed in services for homeless and other high-risk groups.

Libraries should be for everyone, but I have to admit to being uncomfortable going to the library and encountering the things I just described.


It sounds like you are one of those people who don’t go to libraries, but have a strong opinion only vaguely based on what libraries do. That libraries choose to “only” serve the poor is a pretty disingenuous claim, by whoever is making it. Your list of what libraries should do is very nice, and is what most public libraries already do!!! I’m sorry that some people don’t seem to like service to the poor, but they deserve service, too. So while the European travelogue presentation is going on in one room, we can (and do) have employment assistance classes in another room. And working in a library, I still see people of all classes and ages coming in to use our services.


I fucking love my library. Yeah I can a buy books but I have realized I rarely reread them and like being free of the cruft. Also the Seattle Public Library rocks and I can check stuff out from King County and Sno-Isle as well.


I think it’s worth skimming the Andre Walker thread just to get a sense of his attitude. It seems clear to me that his only goal here is creating another phoney-baloney “issue” he can use to get some people riled up.

He tells a school librarian:

Because you’re too lazy to run a full service.

Even in context, that response doesn’t make sense.

He says, with zero evidence or research:

I’m serious, what adults use libraries. Almost none.

But then he turns on his critics:

…what evidence do you have for that.

He’s not trying to make sense, he’s not bothering to sound like he’s making sense. He’s flip, casual, needlessly combative. He’s not attempting to persuade anyone. He’s strictly picking a fight, he’s strictly bullying the same public services the right has been beating up for decades. I’d guess he doesn’t have a personal position on the “issue,” he’s just making noise for the noise machine.

The people arguing with him by posting photos of busy libraries are probably inadvertently playing right into his hands on this. The pictures show that brown people sometimes make use of government-funded services, after all. His followers will see that and stoke the fires of their resentment. Could it be that Walker planned this aspect?


False dichotomy is false. oblig: whycan’twehaveboth.gif

ETA: it doesn’t sound like you hate to say it. It sounds as if you are practicing saying it.


Did you know a different branch of my local library system has a ukulele that you can check out like a book? Like an entire ukulele. (FOURTEEN entire ukuleles actually I only just noticed that. And 48 holds! So… I’m guessing they are popular)

I don’t feel like telling you anything else to fulfill your criteria since I already stated what my local library’s name is and their events calendar is freely available on their website if you want to google it so you can have a look yourself if you want to see how well they stack up. Personally I think my library would blow your socks off so hard they might take your feet with them.

I just think the ukulele is the funniest possible example I can give of enriching and appealing to middle class people.


I am a point of data pointing to the fact that I use the library an awful lot, and am not remotely poor at this point.