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It may not come as a surprise that Eric Klinenberg gets a warm welcome when he speaks to librarians and supporters of public libraries.

Klinenberg is the author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life that was published in 2018. The book makes the case that shared “social infrastructure,” such as libraries, is critical for the future of democracies and the literal survival of their citizens.

He spoke to the American Library Association’s meeting in Seattle this past January, then to Sno-Isle Libraries employees this fall. The next day, his conversation with Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Director Lois Langer Thompson at a breakfast meeting for community members was captured for this podcast episode.

“Palaces” isn’t the first time Klinenberg has posited the common-good perspective.

In 2002, he wrote Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. A sociologist as well as author, Klinenberg examined the data from a 1995 heatwave that killed more than 700 people. Klinenberg found that who died depended in large part on where they lived in the city.

Other books by Klinenberg include Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (The Penguin Press, 2012) and Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media (Metropolitan Books, 2007). He is also the editor of Cultural Production in a Digital Age, co-editor of Antidemocracy in America (Columbia University Press, 2019), and co-author, with Aziz Ansari, of the New York Times #1 bestseller Modern Romance (The Penguin Press, 2015).

Klinenberg is the Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. His scholarly work has been published in journals including the American Sociological Review, Theory and Society, and Ethnography, and he has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and This American Life.

Episode length: 46:19


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