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Mar 29, 2023

"Parents fighting schools to protect their kids are heroes, not book-banners," Fox News tells us. Are Privatized Public Libraries So Bad?" asks CityLab. "Huntsville Public Library could be privatized in aftermath of pride display dispute," reports Houston Public Media.

For decades, public libraries have been under attack. Repeatedly, influential rightwing and centrist individuals, corporations, and governments––from Phyllis Schlafly to Ron DeSantis––have coordinated campaigns to weaken one of the most beloved and least means-tested public institutions in the country. They seek to, at best, restrict the materials, functions, and decision-making power of public libraries, and at worst, destroy public libraries completely, tossing aside the people who depend on them for education, employment, and often survival.

What is it about public libraries that inspires such contempt? What's responsible for the chasm between the US population's perceptions of public libraries––which are overwhelmingly positive––and policymaking that seeks to ruin those libraries? And who suffers when one of the few true public goods left in the US is targeted and seized by reactionary forces?

On this episode, we examine the decades-long right-wing assault on US public libraries, the history of book bans and defunding, attendant efforts to privatize public libraries, and how these intersect with the labor struggles of librarians nationwide.

Our guest is president-elect of the American Library Association, Emily Drabinski.