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save our libraries

Thanks to Mac at War Liberal, I came across saveourlibraries.org today.

Does it not say a lot about our society when we have to fight to save our libraries?

When I was young, the library was a weekly ritual. A bus came on Saturdays, stopped right at the corner in front of my house, and took us to the library. I spent all day there, thumbing through books, writing reports, doing research and sometimes attending the storytimes and special events they had.

On Wednesdays we had the bookmobile with Mr. Bill at the wheel. Bookmobiles have come and gone and my kids have no idea that such a thing even existed. And now, libraries may be headed for the same extinction.

The internet will never replace the physicality of the library. Sure, you can find all the information you need for your footnotes and bibliography and research with your mouse and keyboard. But what can replace the feel of a book? The quiet calm of the libary? The reference librarian who is so easily thrilled when he helps you find that elusive reference book?

Public libraries all over America are being forced to cut their hours and services. It's become an alarming trend for cities and town to turn to their libary first when it comes time to crunch the budget.

The American Library Association has launched a Save Our Libraries campaign.

"Librarians and our users cannot afford to be quiet about drastic cuts forcing libraries to close their doors earlier, lay off experienced library staff, eliminate periodical collections and reduce programs and services," Freedman said. "These cuts are deeper than those sustained even in the Great Depression, and they are affecting library services in schools, college and university campuses and communities everywhere."

In California, Governer Davis has cut library funding in half. As if that's not enough, Davis has the grand idea of charging patrons to take out books. That goes against everything the public library is about.

It's been noted that when the economy goes down, public library usership goes up. Public libraries offer for free what some people would not otherwise get.

Who wants to live in a world without libraries? I never thought I would see the day when libraries and their services would be considered expendable.

What a shame.

(all links via Save Our Libraries)

Comments

Michelle,

I share your love of libraries, but takes exception to your plaintive mention of "[t]he quiet calm of the lib®ary". My local library has so many loud conversations, crying children , and cell phone tones, I may as well be in my local mall.

Your memories of reference librarians is a thing of the past, as well. A few months ago I wanted to check out a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta on CD. G&S were not in the opera section, nor under classical music. So I asked the 20-ish guy replacing CDs where I went find Gilbert & Sulliva. "Who?" he asked. Then I asked the 50-ish reference librarian. "They'd be in the CD section" she said. (D'uh!) "WHERE in the CD section? I asked. "What kind of music is it?" she asked.

I asked one more librarian, who also seemed never to have heard of them. A patron overheard me and suggested that I look in the video section because G&S were the stars of Topsy Turvy (sigh).

Finally, I asked the 70-ish volunteer who works in the library bookstore (where they sell discards and donated books), "Do YOU know who Gilbert & Sullivan are?" She gave me a look that said, "What kind of uneducated idiot do you think I am?" but out loud said only, "Which operetta are you looking for?" I could have kissed her!

I love our library. It;s one of the best! I don't visit quite often enough, but when i walk through the doors and that library smell hits me... i get all warm & fuzzy. it's such a comfortable place. How about the way Mom decorates the Childrens Room? it's so inviting. she does tell us some horror stories about unruly patrons and the lady who sleeps with all her paper bags around her in the periodicals section. but where else can you get videos, dvds, cds FOR FREE, not to rent??? i wouldnt have read half the autors i have if not for the library... walking down the aisles and picking random books. i hope that never goes away.

the library is one of the few sources of entertainment for this po' white girl.

~wendy(wannabe kinky librarian)

Ummm...I don't know what your policy is on this but I have to ask. Would I be flogged if I pointed out that you spelled "Library" as "Libary" at least three times (or libaries in the title)?

The sad part is that librarians themselves have something to do with this problem. There have been several cases where large numbers of books were thrown out (taken to the landfill) to make room for computers, "multimedia," etc.

An excess of trendiness.

Davis is a spineless creep. He makes a big media play about raising the taxes on the "rich" to offset the $35 billion shortfall.

In The Bay Area a two income couple making $120k a year are barely keeping it together and wouldn't even qualify for a home loan. A couple working as a grocery checker and a UPS driver would make about 120k gross combined. A couple thousand bucks will be a disaster for these folks.

So what does the Gov do next? Raises taxes and fees that impact the poor and middle class the most. Car Reg will triple! An extra penny of sales tax. He is justifying these increases so the state won't be forced to cut back services.

DOH?! Like libraries? Fucking scumbag liar.

Will the last person leaving CA please turn out the lights...oh! not necessary.

f

the dusty warm smell of the stacks.

You said "Public libraries all over America are being forced to cut their hours and services. It's become an alarming trend for cities and town to turn to their libary first when it comes time to crunch the budget."

I used to spend a lot of time in libraries, twenty years ago. I'd keep a list of things I wanted to look up in the reference section and take it in once a week or so (much more often than that when I was still a student). I don't do that any more because if I want to look up something, I just click the mouse button and in less than a minute I have more information than I have time to digest.

As for looking for things to read, well if you like romantic thrillers there's a lot for you. Their entire budget is mis-spent on things that have no lasting value.

Lyn, you're showing off your ignorance as much as that of anyone there. The first guy you asked probably was under strict rules not to answer questions of that sort (the guy shelving CD's is NOT a reference librarian, after all).

It surprises me that the reference librarian had not heard of them, but that's not really her job. If you weren't too stuck up to explain that you were looking for a specific operetta, she would have been able to find what you were looking for. Generally the reference staff have their own specialties and do the ordering for a certain area. Obviously hers was not music.

The job of a librarian is not to know everything, people. If people could hold all that knowledge in their heads, we wouldn't need books. The job of the librarian is to know where to find it, and to be as helpful as you are.

(sorry... I get a bit defensive sometimes.)

Well, this wasn't what I needed to read today. I've decided I want to change careers from IT to library science so I'm currently trying to get into grad school so I can go for my master's degree. I really didn't want to know that the field I'm trying to get into is in trouble.

sigh

But it's a good thing to know about so I can do what I can to help out. This is an outrage. Libraries contribute a lot to their communities. That they should be one of the first things in line to get the budget axe while politicians gleefully waste tax dollars on pork barrel projects that don't really benefit anyone makes me want to scream.

I've always loved libraries. They are quiet, tranquil places to sit and read and study. (I'd have to say the librarian isn't doing their job if your local library is overrun by noisy people.) I've tried out some ebooks and I have to say, they can't compare to the feel of a real book. Yes, new media is important and there should be public archives of it but throwing out books to make room for it is insane. But then I doubt any politicians would want to approve funds to expand library buildings when they could be going to buy votes instead.

Yeah, I spent many formative kid hours in the library, too: I can still remember how excited I was the day I finally got an adult card . . .

I loved the library as a younger child. Used to go weekly and would check out as many books as they would let me. It's been a while (sadly) since I have been in a library (since my college days). But I do have very fond memories of them.

what do you expect, when the drumbeat of the clinton administration has been "internet in every school" for years? At the expense of books. I'm on the internet every day, but I have no illusions that it's one great big library. Every idiot I meet who tells me that it is, deserves a goatse redirect.

Kevin, I should point out that public libraries are a major, if not the only, source of internet access for many people.

When I said that Save Our Libraries was close to my heart, I meant it. I am a librarian, after all. I'm at an academic library, so they can't close us without losing accreditation, but they can squeeze us for every drop of savings. And then keep squeezing. We're supposed to have seven full-time and five part-time employees. Currently we're working with none of those part-timers, with one full-time position being left unfilled (though they swear it will be) and another full-timer spending most of her time on non-library duties.

Mac - I think it's outstanding that internet access is in public libraries - that's IMHO where it belongs. I'm against shovelling PC's into schools to the detriment of libraries, just because of some misguided political guilt trip. I love libraries. When I was little, in the UK, you had a book limit on your library card (5 I think), the kind folks gave me two library cards so that I could get out more books each saturday. I'm a big reader, and am teaching my kids to love libraries like I do.

Once the littler ones get over the urge to tear the pages of books like they're wrapping paper, of course...

Save Our Libraries? My local library is doing just fine, thank you. It is a simple place for books, cds, dvds, etc. Very quiet. Luckily, it is not billed as a "Multi-media Resource Center". Yes, save the libraries...but let the 'modern' non-library libraries go away like a bad fad.

I don't disagree, Kevin. (And it kills me to see schools paying out big money to bring in computers and multimedia while at the same time making students double up on textbooks and librarians work at two or three different schools.) I'm terrified of what will happen in September when the bills come due and the state legislature here in Alabama will have to cut the budgets to avoid deficits.

Here in Oakland half of our library branches are slated for closure. HALF! Some as soon as the first of next month. I have been bombarding the city with letters; my son is in Head Start, and we sent a petition with hundreds of names of Head Start parents & staff to Jerry Brown. I don't think it's going to do any good...they're cutting police & fire, so why would they worry about libraries? I'm just sick inside. And of course the ones they're closing are in low-income neighborhoods. Our homicide rate was 114 last year. Children are growing up with substandard educations, and services are being cut left and right. Because the schools are in trouble, school libraries are suffering as well. I expect 114 murders a year will be commonplace ten years from now, with kids growing up and seeing nothing out there for them but the streets.

My son and I love going to the library. It's a wonderful place to sit and read. It never fails, if I'm reading aloud to Spenser, I end up with several other kids sitting around, listening in.

Davis is gonna kill this state yet. Bastard.

I don't get it, you say you're a capitalist yet you're for public libraries?

Don't libraries interfere with "intellectual property rights" and other nonsense theft laws capitalists come up with?

I'm for libraries, libraries often have older books that capitalist stores like Boarders and b&n don't have. Also, it's free, so it's nice, I can rent video games, Simspons complete first season, punk cd's (my library has anit-flag, ramones, sex pistols, rollins) and burn them, and most importantly tons of books. I just got back from the library and i got Basic Economics (so i can read it and give it a poor review on amazon), 25 years of censored news stories, The sims, and some other stuff.

I think if libraries were privatized they'd probably try and charage 5 bucks just to take something out, and many books wouldn't even be available.

However, when democrats do something it's right and when republicans do something it's wrong so i'm sure he has his reasons.

Hey Communist...the public library movement in the US was started by Andrew Carnegie, who most people would consider to be a capitalist.

Whats a Communist? Wher can I get one?

Dagny,

Fair enough about the guy sorting the CDs. However, I believe that G&S are as much a part of the common heritage as Dickens or Wilde. I did ask for a specific operetta ("The Gondoliers"), but it's not one of their more popular works (in the US).

Telling me that I would find the CD in the CD section is as helpful as telling me I'd find a novel in the book section.

> The job of a librarian is not to know everything

Of course. But as you say, "The job of the librarian is to know where to find it". If it wasn't her specialty, she could have passed me on to someone else. She could have used the computerized access system. Waving me towards the CD shelves was simply useless.

I don't know what you mean by "be as helpful as you are". I abbreviated the conversation in my post. After asking about "The Gondoliers", I mentioned "Mikado" and "HMS Pinafore" in the belief that Gondoliers would be shelved with the other works.

Lyn

Sigh I read some of these comments and could not help but feel some of the stings.

I wish the whole argument about the future of libraries were as black and white as some people are making it see. In reality, the public libraries have about a hundred different roles they have to fill.

Yes, they still need to provide print resources for patrons and the whole anitquaterd notion of what a library should be still needs to hold up to an extent, but society is changing, as is technology.

As someone already pointed out, the library can be a family's or someone's only access to the Internet and all it holds. But if you think that we only provide computers for Internet and email, you are sadly mistaken.

A lot of the excellent resources that were once available in print are no longer. A lot of publishers have moved their directories to databases and have put them online. MEDLINE is the perfect example of this. Unless you are looking for articles pre-1966, you are not gonna find a print directory to search. The same holds true for ERIC. The libraries have no choice but to keep up with technology in order to provide patrons with the best possible sources of information that are available.

Do all librarians like this trend towards electronic everything? Absolutely not. Most of us are heartbroken when certain titles are no longer available in print, but what can we do when the publisher and the vendor refuse to create print resources?

To the gentleman who is thinking about beocoming a librarian, while I think this trend that we are seeing with public libraries is alarming, it is not the case everywhere. If you want to work in a public library, then these are some of the issues you may face aside from the crappy paycheck and the disrespect from patrons. However, if you specialize or go the academic route, you will most likely have a better experience.

Don't let this dishearten or sway your decision. I love being a librarian. I could not imagine doing anything else.