It was last fall that the Microsoft advancemen first visited the little library in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. They came down Flatbush Avenue, past the tropical-colored stalls of mangoes and plantains, past the discount-clothing stores, past the men slapping down dominoes on chipped stoops. They did not dally at the basketball hoop lashed to a tree in front of the library. Unlike some of the kids who played there every day, the Microsoft guys actually went up the steps and inside.

They had come to see whether the Flatbush branch of the Brooklyn Public Library ought to share in a...

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