'We live in an era of hostile architecture, disinformation, and privatisation. Our right to exist in public freely is increasingly compromised. In 2018, Forbes ran an op-ed suggesting that libraries could be replaced by Amazon. In the same week, Omar Sakr wrote a twitter thread celebrating the social, intellectual, and domestic role of Liverpool public library in his teenage years. When Vanessa Giron, the commissioning editor for this series, wrote a Brow by Numbers for TLB 39, she focussed on the increase in public library membership and patronage, and paradoxical decrease in staff and funding on both a state and federal level. It seems we need public information and safe spaces for congregation and learning now more than ever—but how ‘public’ can these public spaces be when they are entrenched in the logics of colonialism and capitalism? Are these spaces truly free, if they propound colonialist narratives under the guise of objectivity. Are they truly public, if they are inaccessible to those who would benefit most from them?
'We asked five writers to consider the public, personal, and structural role that public libraries play in our society. The responses from our writers were generous, ranging from writing from poetic, to academic, to critical, to playful. For some, public libraries provided access, safety, education, or entertainment. For others, they may symbolise hierarchies that privilege particular narratives over others. They conjured memories, provocations, and projections about the future of public information and public space.
'We hope this series provides, if not answers, a richer understanding of the stakes and terms of the issue at hand.' (Introduction)