I'm noding from the public library, the bastion of all that is quiet and good and literary. Even in this lousy neighborhood the library is clean and warm and comfortable, well stocked with musty fiction and encyclopedias and tax forms. Outside there is eighteen inches of fluffy snow, not yet ruined by slush. I'm noding from a good machine with a surprisingly speedy connection, burning votes, doing some node-tending, not really in the mood to add to your favorite collectively-filtered database.

The school down the block lets out. In ten minutes the library goes from nearly-empty to chock-full of middle-school kids stripping off their winter coats, boots, hats, mittens. They barricade themselves in the kids section, halfheartedly opening textbooks and gnawing on their pencils. The librarians holler a bit- "Quiet down! Quiet down already!" -but it's companionable, a routine, a show.

I hear the crackle of a CB radio, the stomping of boots out in the hallway. Two uniformed police officers amble in, hands on hips, unzipping their coats in the warmth. The gaggle of kids quiets noticeably. They're just middle-schoolers, eleven, twelve, thirteen, with round faces and big smiles, and the cops know their names. This, too, is a routine. But the bigger kids, the ones who have maybe failed a grade or two, the ones who are a bit ragged around the edges, tense up. This is a library. It's supposed to be safe. And I guess that's why those cops are here, to keep the peace. But I can't help but think It's a library, dammit, and they're just kids. You're pigeonholing them because we're in the ghetto, and because they're poor. I want the cops to maybe sit down with the kids, read with them, but they just amble through, making a circuit, walking with a wide-legged stride, like cowboys. Then they zip up their coats and head back out into the snow.

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