When Sydney and I visited Philadelphia a couple of months ago, I was really excited to see the public library. I love libraries, which is part of the reason I enjoy tagging along when he goes on conference trips. College libraries are always interesting, and public libraries can be magnificent. But when a friend and I walked into the Philadelphia Free Library, I was distinctly disappointed. Not only were there not a lot of books, there were no chairs. Yup, you heard me. My friend and I had brought our own reading, but there was nowhere to sit down.
And I soon figured out why: the three or four chairs I did see were occupied by homeless people who were obviously camped out for good, attempting to escape the cold day outside. And I saw a few more who obviously wanted to sit down, but had to wander the aisles until one of those half-dozen chairs opened up. Sad. Sad for them, sad for my visions of libraries as a refuge for all who visited.