“Public libraries might at first glance seem like an odd example. They are, after all, a durable institution found in all capitalist societies. Nevertheless, they embody principles of access and distribution which are profoundly anticapitalist. Consider the sharp difference between the ways a person acquires access to a book in a bookstore and in a library. In a bookstore you look for the book you want on a shelf, check the price, and if you can afford it and you want it sufficiently, you go to the cashier, hand over the required amount of money and then leave with the book. In a library you go to the shelf (or more likely these days, to a terminal to see if the book is available), find your book, go to the check-out counter, show your library card, and leave with the book. If the book is already checked out, you get put on a waiting list. In a bookstore the distribution principle is “to each according to ability to pay”; in a public library the principle of distribution is “to each according to need”. What is more, in the library, if there is an imbalance between supply and demand, the amount of time one has to wait for the book increases; books in scarce supply are rationed by time, not by price. A waiting list is a profoundly egalitarian device: a day in everyone’s life is treated as morally equivalent. A well-resourced library will treat the length of the waiting list as a good signal that more copies of a particular book need to be ordered. Libraries can also become multipurpose public amenities, not simply repositories of books. Good libraries provide public space for meetings, sometimes venues for concerts and other performances, and a congenial gathering place for people. Of course, libraries can also be exclusionary zones that are made inhospitable to certain kinds of people. They can be elitist in their budget priorities and their rules. Actual libraries may thus reflect quite contradictory values. But, insofar as they embody emancipatory ideals of equality, democracy and community, libraries are a real utopia.”

https://futureswewant.net/erik-olin-wright-real-utopias/

EOW on Public Libraries (from Real Utop…