Education: Turns of a Bookworm

One regular user of the New Orleans Public Library is a woman who lives among the crab and shrimp fishermen near Lake Pontchartrain. Every two weeks, she hops aboard a bus, rides seven miles to the library, fills her shopping bag with books, and rides home again.

Not so long ago, the woman would never have darkened the library's doors— nor would many of her fellow citizens. For years, the city's public-library system was a collection of dark buildings filled with shabby books and headed by inept political appointees. Reform groups demanded that something...

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