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Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library: How Postmodern Consumer Capitalism Threatens Democracy, Civil Education and the Public Good [Kindle Edition]

Ed D'Angelo
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
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Book Description

Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library is a philosophical and historical analysis of how the rise of consumerism has led to the decline of the original mission of public libraries to sustain and promote democracy through civic education. Through a reading of historical figures such as Plato, Helvetius, Rousseau, and John Stuart Mill, the book shows how democracy and even capitalism were originally believed to depend upon the moral and political education that public libraries (and other institutions of rational public discourse) could provide. But as capitalism developed in the 20th century it evolved into a postmodern consumerism that replaced democracy with consumerism and education with entertainment. Public libraries have mistakenly tried to remain relevant by shadowing the rise of consumerism, but have instead contributed to the rise of a new barbarism and the decline of democracy.

Product Details

  • File Size: 150 KB
  • Print Length: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Library Juice Press (January 14, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J8HSJ0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #550,501 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The library as retail outlet. November 16, 2006
Format:Paperback
The premise of Ed D'Angelo's "Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library" is that "the condition of public libraries may be taken as a litmus test for the state of democratic civilization." In an effort to remain relevant, libraries now pander to the public instead of inspiring and educating them. As the "cult of consumerism" has taken hold in America, libraries have become entertainment centers rather than bastions of learning. Give people what they want: movies, Internet access, video games, food and drink, trashy magazines, best sellers, and popular programming. The most important mission of the library, "which is to promote and sustain the knowledge and values necessary for a democratic civilization," no longer applies. The goal of today's library administrators is to boost membership and circulation statistics at all costs. As consumer capitalism has taken hold in our society, we are surrounded by incentives to buy, buy, buy. The library has become just another retail outlet.

The author puts his arguments into historical context by examining how the educational, economic, and political climate has evolved over the years. In 1731, when Ben Franklin and members of his association established the Library Company, their aim was to promote the common good. At one time, public libraries were "people's universities," institutions of learning where individuals from all backgrounds had the opportunity to become better-educated and more thoughtful citizens. Today, the notion of the common good has been superseded by a global pop culture in which "visual images have replaced words as the primary means of human communication.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise, could not put down. January 23, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Concise & well written, Ed's book appealed to the inner library in me, of course, but also to my conscience as a concerned citizen of a once ostensibly democratic Republic now collapsing into Empire. Ed is warning us of an update of the "Bread & Circuses" meme from Ancient Rome for our own age, and how libraries have become increasingly complicit in the dumbing-down of America (side note: see Paul Fussell's darkly funny book _B.A.D._, which is a bit dated now but still very apt). I found Ed's book irresistible and I read it all in one setting. I was a little surprised he did not work in a little Neil Postman into his narrative, especially _Amusing Ourselves To Death_, which is painfully relevant to THIS narrative.

This is far and away the sharpest, most philosophically insightful LIS book I've read since Earl Lee's _Libraries in the Age of Mediocrity_, which makes a nice companion piece. Ed packs a lot into a few short pages, but there is plenty of room for expansion, and I do hope Ed keeps working on these topics and some day puts out an expanded and updated 2nd edition.

Libraries, especially the humanistic tradition of Anglo-American Public Services Librarianship (and I include not only Public but also School and Academic Libraries under that broader rubric), is what I term "the socialism-that-dare-not-speak-its-name". Speak it or not, that's in part why it remains under relentless ideological assault, with increasingly bad, ill-fitting ideas from the business world continuing to pollute mainstream LIS research and library education, filtering down to daily library practice.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good read if you enjoy thinking January 15, 2014
By Kristen
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book offers a fascinating interpretation of the impacts consumerism and the free market have had on our society from philosophical, economic, and social perspectives. D'Angelo easily blends his varied academic backgrounds in this book, with great results.
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