Knowledge for Sale


| July / August 2005


Are America's public libraries on the verge of losing their way?

Before joining the Utne staff in 1999, Chris Dodge worked for 19 years in a suburban Minneapolis library system, helping the activist librarian Sandy Berman reinvent the art of cataloging. Long before search engines swept the Web, Berman and his team created a network for searching the system with plain words and phrases, not arcane jargon. Today, that innovative system has been dismantled -- a symbol, Dodge argues, of wider trends that are transforming public libraries across the country. Are we on the verge of losing a cultural treasure? Dodge finds reason for both concern and hope. -- The Editors

Imagine a social space that's designed for individual enlightenment, a "people's university" where all can read and learn. A haven from commerce where everyone can conduct research or enjoy the arts. A place for children to escape their family bonds just long enough to glimpse a broader world. A home away from home for those curious about ideas and passionate about knowledge.