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I'm the author of Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything (Red Clover, 2011). I write about big ideas, culture, creativity, and the interaction of complex systems.
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From today’s National Post, one of Canada’s big newspapers: two competing stories about what libraries are about.

Here’s one side:

The Toronto Public Library Board is seriously considering having the TPL become the first major library system in Canada or the U.S. to slather itself in advertising. As per a report from their staff, possible vehicles for advertising may include: “In-branch posters and brochure displays; Online text and display ads on the Library’s website; Networked computer screens including the Library’s in-branch wireless network, public computers and LCD screens; The Library’s truck fleet, excluding the Bookmobiles.” But first, they’re going to begin by selling ads on the backs of due-date slips.

And the other side:

It’s not hard to imagine how advertising in libraries could be tacky and annoying, but it’s equally possible to imagine a system being in place that raises some modest amount of money for the library system and stops short of pasting flyers for Vincenzeo’s Pizza Joint over pages of literary classics. I take the following position — extra revenue is good. Not good at any price (so to speak), but all things being equal, good. Every buck the library can raise for itself is another buck it has, and another buck the city has free to devote to another worthy cause. And I make the following prediction — the overwhelming majority of people won’t be any more bothered by an ad on their due-date slip than they are any of the other places they see advertising.

(This discussion is happening because city council is talking about privatizing Toronto’s public library system - one of the busiest in North America. Librarians are talking about work stoppages, and apparently LSSI, the big private library management company that is eyeing Toronto’s libraries, has hired lobbyists with ties to Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Who, incidentally, said he wouldn’t know Margaret Atwood, one of his better known constituents, if he passed her on the street.)

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