Penn State

Matthew Ciszek - Associate Librarian and Head, Lartz Memorial Library, Penn State Shenango

Book Title: Dark Age Ahead

Author: Jane Jacobs

Book Description:

Jane Jacobs is well-known as a researcher and pioneer in urban studies. In a departure from her typical writing, Jacobs paints a dire picture of the future in her 2004 book, Dark Age Ahead. In focusing on the societal change experienced over the last 40 years, she argues that the decay of five key pillars of society (community and family; higher education; science and technology; taxes and responsive government; and self-policing by the learned professions) threatens to create a “new dark age”, or a “mass amnesia where even the memory of what was lost is lost”. Jacobs does end the book on an optimistic note, and stresses that society can avoid this “dark age” if trends that destroy and devalue these pillars are reversed. 


As a librarian, I was struck with how intertwined Jacobs’ five pillars are with the mission and core values of our profession. Librarians strive to provide free and equitable access to knowledge and information. This mission rests on core values that define, inform, and guide what we do as librarians, including access to information, democracy, diversity, education, intellectual freedom, preservation of knowledge, social responsibility, and upholding the public good. Libraries and librarians support communities, are essential to higher education and the pursuit of science and technological advance, create an informed and educated electorate, and enrich and enhance the learned professions. In living out our professional responsibilities, I believe we librarians can be a significant force used to stem the decay of Jacobs’ five pillars of society, and serve as front-line crusaders in the fight against this new “dark age”.





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