“Imagine there was no such thing as a library, and that members of the current neoliberal policy consensus were to sit down today and invent it. They might create complicated tax expenditures to subsidize the poor purchasing and reselling books, like the wage support of the earned income tax credit. They might require people to rent books from approved private libraries, with penalties for those who don’t and vouchers for those who can’t afford it, like the individual mandate in the latest expansion of health care. They might come up with a program where they take on liability for books that go missing from private libraries and thereby boost profits for lenders themselves, like federally backed private student loans. Or maybe they’d create means-tested libraries only accessible to the poor, with a requirement that patrons document how impoverished they are month after month to keep their library card. Maybe they’d exempt the cost of private library cards from payroll taxes, or let anything calling itself a library pay nothing in taxes.
Of course, there’s no saying exactly what the neoliberal library would look like. But we know one option that wouldn’t be on the table: the straightforward public library, open to all, provided and run by the government, which our cities and towns enjoy every day…..”
Cooper Union is now occupied by students protesting the end of free education at the famously tuition-free school. Follow them at www.cusos.org and at @FreeCooperUnion. Remember that the introduction of tuition at CUNY in the 1970s enabled enormous tuition increases once that one foot was in the door. The stakes of this protest are very high.