The difference between schools and libraries


From John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education:

To begin with, libraries are usually comfortable, clean, and quiet.
They are orderly places where you can actually read instead of just pretending to read.

For some reason libraries are never age-segregated, nor do they presume to segregate readers by
questionable tests of ability…. The librarian doesn’t tell
me what to read, doesn’t tell me what sequence of reading I have to follow, doesn’t grade my
reading. The librarian trusts me to have a worthwhile purpose of my own. I appreciate that and
trust the library in return.

Some other significant differences between libraries and schools: the librarian lets me ask my own
questions and helps me when I want help, not when she decides I need it. If I feel like reading all
day long, that’s okay with the librarian, who doesn’t compel me to stop at intervals by ringing a
bell in my ear. The library keeps its nose out of my home. It doesn’t send letters to my family, nor
does it issue orders on how I should use my reading time at home.

The library doesn’t play favorites; it’s a democratic place as seems proper in a democracy. If the
books I want are available, I get them, even if that decision deprives someone more gifted and
talented than I am. The library never humiliates me by posting ranked lists of good readers. It
presumes good reading is its own reward and doesn’t need to be held up as an object lesson to
bad readers….

The library never makes predictions about my future based on my past reading habits. It tolerates
eccentric reading because it realizes free men and women are often very eccentric.

Filed under: libraries