How the Public Library Became the Heartbreak Hotel

Libraries as social service agencies.
Found at TomDispatch.com
Excerpt:

The belief that we are responsible for each other’s social, economic, and political well-being, that we will care for our weakest members compassionately, should be the keystone in the moral architecture of a democratic culture. We will not stand by while our fellow citizens are deprived of their fellowship and citizenship — which is why we ended racial segregation and practices like poll taxes that kept disenfranchised Americans powerless. We will not let children starve. We do not consign orphans to the streets like they do in Brazil or let children be sold into prostitution as they do in Thailand. We are proud of our struggles to meet people’s basic needs and to encourage inclusion. Why, then, are the mentally ill still such an exception to those fundamental standards?

America is proud of its hyper-individualism, our liberation from the bonds of tribe and the social constraints of traditional societies. We glorify the accomplishments of inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, pioneers, and artists. But while some individuals thrive and the cutting edge of our technology is wondrous, the plight of the chronically homeless tells me that our communities are also fragmented and disintegrating. We may have gained the world and lost each other.

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