February 28, 2006


The Library Paradigm:

Libraries are special because they are at once communitarian, libertarian, and models for sustainability.

They are communitarian in the economic sense because they are built on solidarity. A community pools its resources in order to share them.

Libraries are libertarian in the social/intellectual sense (civil libertarian) because of the ethic of intellectual freedom, which says that all ideas should be included and nothing censored.

This combination of economic communitarianism and social/intellectual libertarianism creates the ideal support system for a democratic society, because the library provides everyone with access to ideas and provides access to every idea.

In addition, libraries are models for sustainable systems. By following the “borrow, don’t buy” ethic, libraries provide an alternative to consumerism, an alternative to environmentally unsound overproduction and spiritually unsound overconsumption.

And libraries are further exciting because they need to be changed. They tend to leave out alternative or street-level materials; there is presently a tendency toward privatization of services and functions (with attendant barriers to access); libraries and library organizations need their decision-making processes democratized; access to local community information in libraries needs to be improved; in general, libraries tend to depart routinely from their founding principles as they struggle for a handhold in the environment of an increasingly neoliberal political economy and an increasingly reactionary social climate. We need to advance the Library Paradigm of information organization, preservation and access, to freshly propagate the idea of the library in society in terms of its underlying principles.

Notwithstanding their imperfections, libraries serve as a rare example of beautiful ideals actually functioning successfully in the world. This means that libraries should serve as a model for other institutions and endeavors. We need to spread the Library Spirit across society and teach it, as a model for positive change beyond the walls of libraries and throughout all contexts of information, communication, and learning. This is the Library Paradigm, and we can make it grow.

– Rory Litwin, updated 2005

Share on Facebook


  1. […] Library Juice’s “Library Paradigm” sums up the importance of libraries best: Libraries are special because they are at once communitarian, libertarian, and models for sustainability. […]

    Pingback by michaelzimmer.org » Archives » On the Importance of Libraries — May 20, 2007 @ 8:52 am

  2. […] Dean of Libraries was helping to lead this effort. A librarian! I can imagine librarian groups like Library Juice would find it abhorrent that a librarian would become a tool of the corporate […]

    Pingback by Stop Snitchin’ « Library Playground — September 4, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

  3. Kramer auto Pingback[…] Juice is concerned with libraries, politics, and culture from a critical perspective.  In "The Library Paradigm" (a manifesto of sorts), Litfin writes: Libraries are special because they are at once […]

    Pingback by clavi non defixi: Library Juice Press — May 22, 2010 @ 7:12 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI
You can also bookmark this on del.icio.us or check the cosmos

Leave a comment

XHTML ( You can use these tags): <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> .