Tuesday, 29 March 2016

How to save libraries?

I've been writing about this sort of thing for a while.
Everyone thinks libraries have a positive role to play in the world, but that role differs greatly based on whether you’re talking to a librarian or a patron. Ask a patron what libraries have in common and they’d probably answer: they share books with people. Librarians give a different answer: they share a set of values. It’s time for libraries to step up to those values by supporting access to the Internet and taking the lead in fighting to keep the Internet open, free, and unowned.
The fit is obvious.  Libraries have always been about free, anonymous access to information.  We're facing two crises in the UK (and elsewhere):  the closure of libraries due to austerity measures and the erosion of privacy as the result of government and corporate snooping.

Libraries could become more relevant again by providing not just internet access but anonymous internet access and by training the public in how to understand privacy issues and use privacy tools.  They could provide Tor Exit Relays, like the Kilton Library in Lebanon, NH.

Libraries are well-suited to be in the business of providing global free, anonymous, open information access and these two birds could be killed with one stone.  The problem, of course, is that governments aren't, as a rule, very interested in global free, annonymous, open communications or - for that matter - in libraries.  Whatever libraries do in this area will probably have to be funded by communities.  I'd be happy to donate.

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