Library Socialism

Libraries are wholly wonderful projects and are models for how we could have access to most things we want and need.

Somehow I didn’t know about Srsly Wrong before this week. The podcast seriously considers important ideas that could be used to build a better world but presents them with levity and enough distance to keep it all accessible.

On Sunday, Cory Doctorow published an overview of three episodes of Srsly Wrong that cover Library Socialism, a framework that expands the undeniable good of libraries to provide even more utility and joy to us all. His assessment had me sold on the value of what the podcast does and reinforced the view that I already held that libraries can serve as a model for how we do many more things.

First, libraries have some nexus with socialist principles; they are public institutions, devoted to efficient allocation of resources, through which you can get the benefits of owning vast quantities of books and other materials without the downsides of having to organize, store, or maintain them. They are available to all comers at no cost, and they are provided as public services.

Second, librarianship is imbued with several ethos that are adjacent to socialist principles, such as “to each book its reader and to each reader their book” — that is, there’s a book that suited to each reader, and a reader that’s suited to each book, and librarianship is in part the art of consummating the encounters between books and readers.

Third, libraries are already on a path to providing fractional access to many things (wifi hotspots, business suits and ties, tools, toys, etc) and we can imagine a future in which most of life’s material needs are provided in this way, from suitcases to lawnmowers to speed boats. Such a future would give you access to untold material comfort and abundance, without running up against the limits of a finite planet that lacks the material wealth to produce one of each for everyone, which would then moulder in attics and garages most of the time. Moreover, something designed for library circulation could be designed to a better specification than something only ever used for long periods in storage punctuated by occasional individual use.

Library Socialism: a utopian vision of a sustaniable, luxuriant future of circulating abundance

It can be tough to talk to people about the tangible, enriching benefits of socialism, and Srsly Wrong does fantastic work in making these ideas relatable. I have nearly 200 episodes to dig through and catch up on, but I recommend these three wholeheartedly.

For your use and enjoyment: a special episode of Srsly Wrong, using the lenses of history, complexity, retention, and culmination to talk about libraries, sharing, and the socialist future we want to build.

189 – Library Socialism & Usufruct

Human need: what exactly is it, how do we meet it, and what level should nobody fall below? These are the questions which plague the Wrong Boys as they embark on the next exciting installment of their series on Library Socialism.

196 – Library Socialism & The Irreducible Minimum

The Library Socialism Trilogy concludes as we explore the concept of Complementarity as a natural fact, analytical framework, and ethical imperative. Hierarchy, reciprocity, nature, life, death, grasping and loss are just some of the topics touched on as the Wrong Boys try really hard not to talk about the meaning of life.

200 – Complementarity

3 comments on “Library Socialism

  1. Library Socialism has become a fascination for me. Its constellation of ideas is very compelling and I think it makes for an easy introduction to socialist ideas by framing the conversation around an egalitarian system that is already at work.

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