The Corner

Checking Out

Are public libraries supposed to repositories of the best that has been thought and said, or are they supposed to compete with bookstores for customers? In Fairfax County, Va., librarians are removing classics that haven’t been checked out recently so they can make more room for bestsellers and titles that Oprah likes. I’ve got some pretty strong libertarian tendencies, but I’ve always had a soft spot for public libraries. If they merely become government-run versions of what the private sector delivers so efficiently nowadays–the ability to purchase just about any book ever printed, and often at a very good price if you’re willing to buy from a secondhand seller–then maybe we don’t really need them anymore.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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