The New York Times

CORRECTION: To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

THIS CRUCIAL INSTITUTION IS BEING NEGLECTED JUST WHEN WE NEED IT THE MOST.

Is the public library obsolete?

A lot of powerful forces in society seem to think so. In recent years, declines in the circulation of bound books in some parts of the country have led prominent critics to argue that libraries are no longer serving their historical function. Countless elected officials insist that in the 21st century — when so many books are digitized, so much public culture exists online and so often people interact virtually — libraries no longer need the support they once commanded.

Libraries are already starved for resources. In some cities, even affluent ones like Atlanta, entire

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