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IDEA OF THE DAY: Libraries for democracy

The sociologist Eric Klinenberg published a book in 2018 called “Palaces for the People,” about the importance of shared public spaces in American life. Libraries, child care centers, churches and parks had all been crucial to the country’s historical success, he wrote, and he argued that they remained crucial to helping the country function better and overcome its deep divisions today.

In a Times Op-Ed, Klinenberg builds on that idea with a suggestion for the 2020 election: Public libraries, which have long served as polling places, should play an even larger role than they had in past elections. In the midst of a pandemic, they should provide secure ballot boxes where voters can drop off early and absentee ballots, reducing the burden on the Postal Service while allowing people to vote safely. (In Massachusetts — the subject of our item above — at least two libraries did so in this week’s primary.)

“Even in today’s fractured digital age, libraries rank among the most popular and well-visited places in our cultural landscape,” Klinenberg, a New York University professor, writes. “They are open to everyone. They are nonpartisan. They are free.”

For more: Klinenberg explained his larger idea of social infrastructure on the “99% Invisible” podcast.


SheVille Team

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