Nicholas Hune-Brown points out that libraries are the last truly public space. As such, their role has become so much more than just books: They are a social service. Libraries offer their community a vital and essential sanctuary, but Hune-Brown questions the toll this is taking on their staff. A fascinating look at a place we often forget is on the frontline.

Today, you’ll find a semester’s load of classes, events, and seminars at your local library: on digital photography, estate planning, quilting, audio recording, taxes for seniors, gaming for teens, and countless “circle times” in which introverts who probably chose the profession because of their passion for Victorian literature are forced to perform “The Bear Went over the Mountain” to rooms full of rioting toddlers.