Friday, May 28, 2021

Palaces for the People

At the US Book Show, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, author of the bestselling book Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life thanked librarians for their work and stressed that as the nation seeks to recover from a tumultuous year, we will need our public libraries now more than ever before.

“I don’t know all the ways we’re going to have to build and invest...” Klinenberg told librarians. “But I will say that, as we start to rebuild, there is probably no better place to begin, there’s no better site, there is no better public works project, there is no better social infrastructure that expresses who we are and what we want to be than the library.”

Klinenberg called libraries “the best exemplars” of our collective life, and sought to reframe the message of “social distancing” that emerged in the wake of the Covid-19.

“I knew what health officials were trying to tell us, which is to regard each other more carefully,” Klinenberg said. “But I realized the truth was, from the beginning of the pandemic, what we really needed was something more like social solidarity—some real way of thinking more considerately about each other… So what I was thinking from the beginning of the pandemic is that the real message needed to have been ‘physical distance, social solidarity,’ not social distance.”

View his closing keynote here.