It was good to note that The Post continues to document the decline of western civilization on its op-ed page. This time it is public libraries contributing to the decline "by tailoring their services and collections to the lowest end of the intellectual and cultural spectrum" {"McLibraries," May 20}.

It is too bad writer Stephen Akey did not visit or research area public libraries or even visit the infamous Baltimore County public libraries, which are condemned for "giving the public what it wants and pays for" -- a philosophy that results in more than 12 million items circulated per year with a per capita circulation of 20.

What people who come to public libraries want is everything: books on health, picture books for their kids, something to read -- great and not so great, self-help, videos, science and technology -- popular and not so popular. The same people who read "Daddy" are on other occasions found deep in self education. Rather than assuming that "public library users are massively unsophisticated," public libraries today assume that their patrons are multifaceted -- eager to explore the contemporary, the experimental and the traditional. Baltimore County libraries and the other public libraries in Maryland have classics because their patrons read classics. One may even find classics "merchandised" in public libraries.

A more appropriate question that Mr. Akey might have posed is: How can public libraries accomplish all they are expected to do as "a supplement to formal education" for less than 1.5 percent of most jurisdictions' budgets? And how much more could this "public university" accomplish with an additional .1 percent of the budget? ANN M. FRIEDMAN Associate Director Montgomery County Department of Public Libraries Rockville