Home culture war identity politics The Anti-Library Library
Home culture war identity politics The Anti-Library Library

The Anti-Library Library

What belongs in a library anyway?

The Library Journal recently retweeted the accusation that, "Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence” and all the books by white people “are physically taking up space in our libraries."

The Library Journal had been founded by Melvil Dewey. Since then, the American Library Association, also founded by Dewey, pulled the name of its progressive feminist founder, who had issues with wandering hands and bigotry, from its medal.

It was the second time in two years that the ALA had renamed one of its medals. Last year, the Laura Ingalls Wilder award became the Children’s Literature Legacy award after accusing the Little House on the Prairie author of racism.

The cultural establishment unsuccessfully spent three-quarters of a century trying to kill the Little House on the Prairie books because of their conservative and libertarian worldview. While the beloved classics are set in the 19th century, the books tapped into the national debate between self-reliance and socialism during the New Deal. Wilder was an opponent of the New Deal and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who edited the books, would become a major libertarian figure.

Little House on the Prairie is one of those “library collections” proliferating “whiteness” and “taking up space in our libraries”. Exhibits of the books already come with warnings about “problematic” content. And, before long, a pressure campaign will see them forced out of their traditional spaces in libraries.

What will replace them? Probably nothing.

The Library Journal retweeted a screed calling for more minority books. But the definition of what a minority is constantly keeps changing. A library collection filled with books across the racial spectrum won’t sufficiently represent transgender authors. And once enough transgender authors are recruited, published and embedded, it won’t represent whatever the next great identity politics cause will be.

Libraries run by a radical movement are a contradiction in terms.

In the 20th century, European radicals wanted to burn museums to destroy all the old works of art. During some leftist takeovers, such as the Bavarian Soviet Republic, the threats became serious. The ideological justification grounded in class warfare, rather than identity politics, expressed the same idea as the Library Journal’s tweet. Collections represent the old. Changes comes from the new.

A library is reactionary. Burning books is progressive.

Leftism requires not just a revolution, but an endless cycle of them. Libraries seek to preserve the sum of human knowledge, science, art and literature. The ideology and the institution are on a collision course. The ideology worships newness for its own sake, destroying the old to justify its power, while the institution preserves the old, deriving its legitimacy from the study of the past.

Soviet libraries were caught in a cycle of censorship as new histories and political positions kept emerging. The old Communist hero was now a traitor. Lenin’s old position was now taboo. The books that contained them had to be eliminated. That’s the same problem facing the modern library which has to police the constantly changing political boundaries of timeless literature.

The easiest way to run a library is to stock as few books as possible. And that’s the future.

Modern libraries are dumping their collections, opening up more work spaces and adding classes, events and programs. Lefties have little use for libraries with their collections of printed books. Library spaces have to function as social organizing hubs for immigrants, minorities and activists. If people have to read in a library, it should be a screen. The internet rewards the trending topics of the moment. Not the past.

There are no concerns about that worn 1971 copy of Little House in the Big Woods on a back shelf because an internet search will be biased to push the latest social justice essays about the series. Libraries exist to curate an intellectual history while the current internet model pioneered by Google and reinforced by social media, exists entirely in the trending moment with no sense of history at all.

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there," a writer most have forgotten once wrote. The radical hatred of the past is a cultural xenophobia. History is assailed with propaganda as honest and vicious as anything put out by North Korea. The foreign country in which the men and women who live on in the stacks dwelled were bigots. All we need to know about the past is its evil.

Accusations of racism become a convenient means of eliminating the past. And once that’s done, nobody knows anything at all. We all become millennial wunderkinds like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, forever discovering new things, and attributing those discoveries to knowledge instead of ignorance.

The real problem with the past though is the litany of the crimes and failures of the Left. That litany is mysteriously omitted in the latest lecture of how America was built by exploiting the oppressed. Leftist history is always being revised. The revolution of the moment is urgent and inevitable. The revolutions of the past are old history. Nothing needs to be learned from the past. And it’s best not to have libraries.

And so the library becomes the anti-library.

The anti-library is dedicated to limiting knowledge and eliminating the past. The fewer books there are, the easier it is to make sure that they are the right ones. The miserable task of censorship cycling will invariably leave readers with far fewer readable books than they might want. The Soviet Union tried to solve the problem by supplementing its propaganda tracts with selected works of classic literature.

But classic literature is full of dead white men. And there are only so many books that the alliance of oppressed minorities of the moment can be expected to produce that people will want to read. The ability to write is not distributed by any agency or committee. And it cannot be redistributed. Identity politics offers no assurances that the resulting book will be read out of pleasure, rather than duty.

Soviet anti-libraries tackled the problem by allowing children to take out classic literature only if they also took out modern propagandistic works. American libraries however won’t face the same problem.

The Bolsheviks believed that it was important to get people to read so they could be propagandized to. A newspaper is a much more efficient use of political resources than a street corner demagogue. But online video has made the street corner demagogue much more efficient and effective. The destruction of literacy is not an accidental malfunction of the educational system. Illiteracy is the intended outcome.

The Communists were teaching the peasants to read. Our Marxists are teaching them not to bother.

The library, the radicals tell us, is an outmoded institution. Books full of words by dead white men are mainly of interest to dead white men. Even replacing them with books by identity politics minorities doesn’t fix the structural problem that literature and history conform to the norms of dead white men.

Whiteness isn’t just in the names of the authors in the stacks. It’s in the nature of the stacks themselves.

Why have libraries at all?

The obvious answer is that they employ librarians. And they provide internet access to homeless people and teach English to day laborers. They offer spaces for visitors to study the slogans on all their posters. That’s the anti-library future of the library. A space with few books and many screens. A community organizing hub that occasionally happens to have a few books tucked away somewhere.

Not too many though.

There’s no reading in the anti-library.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

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Thank you for reading.


  1. In the year 2014 movie Birdman,
    actress Emma Stone recited a monologue
    in which she described a book as being
    irrelevant because it was written for
    “rich old white people”.

    That movie won several awards from the Far-Left
    Hollywood establishment was loved by the critics.


    Now please allow me share some things that I learned from library books written by “rich old white people”:

    Winston Churchill said this in year 1922 CE:

    “The Arabs would have sat in the dark forever
    had not the Zionist engineers harnessed the
    Jordan River for electrification. Now they
    swarm into Palestine in seeking the light.”

    SOURCE: A Peace to End All Peace

    Winston Churchill was British Prime Minister
    from 1940 to 1945 CE and from 1951 to 1955 CE.

    Winston Churchill said this in 1937 CE:

    “[Winston] Churchill did not accept that the Jews
    were a foreign race [to the Holy Land]. He said it was
    the Arabs who had been the outsiders, the conquerors.”

    SOURCE: Churchill and the Jews
    (chapter 10, page 115) by Martin Gilbert, year 2007 CE


    According to the Wikipedia internet encyclopedia,
    these lands were conquered by the Rashidun Caliphs,
    from year 632 to year 661 of the Common Era
    (from west to East): Libya, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon,
    Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Eastern Turkey, and Iran.

    Therefore, Winston Churchill was correct when
    he said that the Muslims were the outsiders
    and conquerors, with respect to the land of Israel.

    Winston Churchill said [in year 1955 CE]:

    “You ought to let the Jews have Jerusalem;
    it is they who made it famous.”

    SOURCE: Churchill and the Jews
    (chapter 26, page 292) by Martin Gilbert, year 2007 CE
    ISBN-10: 0805088644 * ISBN-13: 978-0805088649

    Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz said:

    The Grand Mufti [Islamic leader] of Jerusalem,
    in addition to becoming Hitler’s ally during
    World War II, adapted Nazi genocidal theory
    to Islamic theology.

    He called on his Muslim brothers to:
    “Murder the Jews! Murder them all.”

    Other Islamic leaders used Nazi words
    like “extermination” in referring to the
    goals of Arab victory [against Israel].

    SOURCE: Chutzpah
    by Alan M. Dershowitz (chapter 4, page 119)
    published in year 1991 by Little Brown & Co
    ISBN: 9780316181372 ISBN: 0316181374

    Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz said:

    “Palestinians have learned the political value
    of invoking human rights rhetoric.

    Indeed, Former U.S. State Department official
    Alan Keyes has argued that by changing the
    terms of the Mideast debate from a political
    issue between Israel and the Arab states into a
    human rights complaint by occupied Palestinians,
    the PLO has won an undeserved political
    and diplomatic advantage.

    Palestinian political organizations now present
    themselves as human rights organizations,
    and the media fall for it.”

    SOURCE: Chutzpah
    by Alan M. Dershowitz (chapter 7, page 230)
    published in year 1991 by Little Brown & Co
    ISBN: 9780316181372 * ISBN: 0316181374

  2. Anonymous24/7/19

    Most likely, the libraries will not advertise book sales as they remove shelves. Instead they will quietly take the books to the paper recycler for destruction, to ensure they don't end up in private collections.

  3. Anonymous24/7/19

    Another poignant, depressing plate you’ve
    served up Daniel. A conquering culture preys
    on the young to “fundamentally change” our
    civilization. Propagandists a.k.a. teachers,
    youth ministers, guidance counselors get their
    marching orders. Any few remaining parents
    who resist have been branded as deplorable.

    Our on-line technology seems made to help
    destroy our foundational wisdom, knowledge.
    But wait! The low price of individual copies
    of original writing, music, video will keep
    it on the black market. Encryption and
    validation are easily available.

    The Fall of the USSR and the Trump Victory
    weren’t supposed to happen. Human history is
    in the domain of chaos theory. If we do good
    things, evil may keep on losing. We’ll see…


  4. Anonymous24/7/19

    In my local libraries there is not a single book by any author critical of Islam. Not. A. One. Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Mark Steyn, Jamie Glazov, Bill Warner are deliberately excluded from their book collections. It's not book burning, it's book banning and the ban extends to any and all websites that are critical of Islam which cannot be accessed by any computer, tablet or smartphone using the library's network.

  5. Anonymous24/7/19

    Dear Mr. Cohen,

    I watched your Birdman clip. Anguish for a
    dad to hear such contempt from his daughter.
    Her coup de grace was,
    “You don’t even have a Facebook page”.

    I was that young once, but hopefully not that
    arrogant. Really funny that she parrots the
    lefty talking points, “rich old white people”,
    affecting erudition.

    How sad. A scene replayed every Thanksgiving
    with the kids home from College. Ouch!


  6. The Conservative Curmudgeon24/7/19

    Well I guess you could look at it that way or you could face reality. When I was a boy we depended on books and encyclopedias for information. Now we have less books being printed on paper and more "E" books being sold not to mention tons of information acquired on the internet. Less space required, less wear on the book and cutting down on cost. Libraries and book dealers naturally target an audience that will benefit both parties. It's a WIN,WIN for everyone.

    But "Look around you boy it's bound to scare you boy don't you know we're on the eve of destruction". Or at least that's the paranoid view of the Trump right. It is estimated that by the year 2040 whites in America will be the minority. Face it we lost the culture wars and there has been an extraordinary erosion of norms. Abortion, gay marriage and numerous other causes has all been part of the family breakdown while white birth rates sink. Trumpism will not save society especially when the soul of the Trump conservatism isn't policy but total cultural combat. They abstain from any intellect and go for the inciting an impassioned response which to them is as valuable as a policy victory. But since Mr. Trump never read a book abstaining from intellect makes sense.

  7. Anonymous25/7/19

    Leftists make everything ‘problematic’: country, language, traditions… There is no more ‘our’ anything. There is only supremacism and cultural appropiation. And they have the gall to call the President divisive for uniting Americans through patriotism. By the way, the concept of cultural appropiation, used to be known as cultural diffusion in a less hysterical academia.

  8. Just a common 'tater25/7/19

    Thank you for writing this. It helped answer some questions regarding some strange things going on in libraries. Your description of how the left "values" books and libraries seems to be a marriage of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984.

    You did fail to mention one drawback to the Soviets efforts to get people to read and write. That meant that the average person could read something not on the approved list or that knowledge could be spread by other than the approved channels. Thus, in Soviet ruled areas the average person could not own a typewriter or a mimeograph without approval by some party hack bureaucrat.

  9. Fascinating topic of critical importance. So much could be said.

    I happen to have a quote from Plutarch open on my desk right now, next to this computer :)

    "So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history ... those who write about it ... pervert and distort the truth."

    So the problem was known in Roman times.

  10. At the rate we are going, the Bible will be the new "minority book".

  11. Anonymous27/7/19

    Wouldn’t there be a market for a library association for librarians like me who do not support the ALA’s vision of libraries? Is there one?

  12. Watching these radicals strangling themselves in their own ever-tightening winding sheets of insanity is like watching a man trying to escape the air he breathes. Libraries are way down the list of unclean white things afflicting them: why, the very language they are using to assail books is English, which is as white as white can be. How can they escape the contamination? French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Danish... all equally white and European. They could try communicating in a less toxic language, like Zulu or Hindi, but that would be cultural appropriation.

    Perhaps they could communicate through numbers, as those came from the Arab world. Or maybe just tapping like woodpeckers. Must be careful not to stray into Morse code, though, as that was also invented by a white male.

  13. A chilling, yet all too obvious trend is brilliantly critiqued by the peerless Greenfield.
    I won't be the only one who noticed aspects of the onslaught described , both in libraries like Richmond and Emeryville, Berkeley and the like. Also here in England, only we're slightly behind you. All grievance seeking lawyer classes and sessions, exhibitions and housing ,drugs and voting for Kamala or such. And Daniel points out the notion that we'd have wanted literacy and the best of former cultural standard works. But the Left certainly don't and we're naive to expect otherwise.
    Truly evil, the Soviets at least feared writers and the truth they wrote. Today's airheads don't see it's point though, because they couldn't dare judge upon it. So let it rot,let the emotional fascism do its work. Maybe we need to buy up and look after what we ourselves rated, and kept it safe. For it will be wanted again very soon. Great work Mr G.


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