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Monday, January 28, 2008

Philip Baruth

Author Philip Baruth attended legislative day for Vermont's public libraries. His remarks can be found on his blog, or you can listen to them at VPR. An excerpt:

When I was a kid, there was always one job that had to be done before you could string the lights on the Christmas tree: you had to check every single bulb individually because if one was bad, the circuit wouldn't close, and the whole string would remain dark. It was a hassle but it prevented an even worse hassle — getting the lights all wound into the evergreen branches, plugging it in, and then having no idea which one of a hundred bulbs needed to be pulled.

I applaud the Legislature's attempts to wire up the state of Vermont, and it's going to be a beautiful thing when the job is done. For God's sake, though, don't skimp on the State's libraries as you do so, because they are already set-up institutionally to fill the digital gap; they're in place, they've rethought their mission, and they're performing the job admirably as we speak. But unless we support them financially in that role, this vast string of fiber-optic Christmas lights we're working on isn't going anywhere, not really, not in any ethical or moral sense. In that sense, the system will remain dark until everyone has access to the light.

And we're not here today to kid ourselves. Bringing the light to those without it costs money: 1.6 million dollars, and an absolutely spectacular bargain at that price.

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