Douglas Lord, blogger for Library Journal, recently wrote a post in which he (briefly) discussed the library as an institution representative of punk rock ideals. Lord said he was going out on a limb making that claim, but I wholeheartedly agree. Let’s take a look at a couple of his points:
Libraries are by nature anti-consumerist. We offer people a place to access information, whether for education or entertainment, at no cost. While most businesses strive to sell sell sell, libraries take the opposite approach: we want you (the members of our community) to be informed and entertained, and we don’t ask for your money in return (excepting the always welcome donations).
Unfortunately for its core message, punk rock has become largely commercialized. True punk rock is about opinions and lifestyles, not about having funny hair or wearing clothes with holes and safety pins. Punk has become, like most other youth movements, largely an issue of style. The focus has been, quite simply, on packaging and exteriors. Any true punk knows these to be just false image. Libraries aren’t flashy or sexy (despite the overwhelming sex appeal of librarians). Yet we are always here, through budget cuts, staff losses and changing technologies, and our ideals are always the same.
I’d like to add a few points to those made by Lord, such as that of equality. Excepting the hideous breed of racist punks, punk rock is about equal opportunity, regardless of age, sex, race etc. The library is one of the few institutions wherein social or economic class, sexuality, race and other factors truly do not come into play. All members of the community have equal access to the library, excepting those who do not return books or who show themselves to be unable to respect our property, materials or fellow patrons.
Another main punk tenet is freedom. At the library, you are free to access whatever information you wish, using books or computers. You control what information you access, via whatever method you prefer. We have no control over what you choose to read or view.
The DIY approach favored by punks is also a library favorite. We provide the information needed to do home repair, auto work, sewing and knitting, art, music and on and on and on. We want to help you grow a garden, compost, and live a self-sufficient life, if that’s what you want. However, we don’t make the decisions for you. You live your life. We can help.
Obviously there are differences as well. Punks are often louder than libraries.