Libraries in a Tough Economy...are we winning or losing?

I read this entry (and watched the video) from ALA TechSource, and I just have to comment on it. Yes, it makes sense that, in this economical climate, libraries are booming with business. Free books, free movies, free Internet...sometimes free entertainment for the family. These are all important reasons libraries exist. Yet...aren't we still victims of this economy? Less money means less jobs...or lower-paying jobs. It also means less money with which to buy these books and movies that libraries offer to the public for free.

I don't know...in a world where bailout money is begged for by men with private jets, I can't help but think, "Where is the bailout money for libraries, schools, hospitals? Where is the money to help out firefighters, police officers, and paramedics?" I'm not saying we shouldn't help the Big Three...in the words of John Stewart, at least they have a product to sell. But maybe we should also keep an eye out for those entities (we're certainly not corporations) that offer free services to people. Maybe we deserve to have some financial consideration, too.

Bunny Burnstein

Oh, speaking of free entertainment...click on my signature to see my blog. The entry for December 11, 2008 is devoted to free online museums. Thanks!

Comments

Libraries in a Tough Economy...are we winning or losing?

I have hung on through 3 different sets of cutbacks since 1974. The first time we saw a loss, I cut from 39 hr per week to 8. At that point I left the library, but within 1 year's time I was hired back full-time.

The next cut saw library closures, lay-offs of full-time staff and reassignments of others. I was reassigned 2 days a week to another library that had lost staff.

The last cut we suffered, I was again reassigned to another library that was short staffed 2 days a week.

One thing I notice that bothers me...is the use of the California Public Library Fund. Many Library Systems mistakenly add the funds they receive into regular budget items such as materials, service hours and staffing, while other (wiser) Library Systems do not count on this funding and use it for one-time special projects.

Although we have lost hours and staffing, usually within 1 year's time we have bounced back to full-service. Yet I have noticed, as we lose our tax dollar funding, we take on more new borrowers and see a higher usage. The demand for materials is greater and yet we have less...but this does not seem to bother our users. I have also noticed that our regular users become more vocal and usually opt to pay additional taxes in order to re-establish library funding and services.

I know we will get through this, we always have, but we need to reach out to our users and ask them to support us by donating new-used materials in good condition that we can add to our collections, by writing to the local and state officials, and by volunteering their time performing clerical tasks.

Mi Takuye Oyacin

I agree with the above

Considering I'm still at my corporate library job, despite recent layoffs at my company, makes me think that I'm doing ok. Often, the library is the first to go. However, I have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the library, even taking over work normally done by a controller and working hours that would drive a normal person nuts (I'm a workaholic).

Civil servants are indeed treated like crap. My dad was a civil servant (police) in one of the worst meth areas in the country, and I don't think he ever topped $38k even when he became a supervisor. I don't understand why the public expects people with criminal justice degrees to work for $12 an hour. That is what we pay entry level police in my town. I can't imagine why anybody would want to risk their life for $12.00 an hour, but they do, because jobs are so scare there.

I was a civil servant for 8 years, during which I had to live in a not-so-nice part of town. It was all I could afford. I ate a lot of ramen noodles. When I got my corporate library job, my salary doubled. Honestly, I don't know how people working in public libraries make it if they're single. It would be very hard for me, and I don't even have kids.

Anonymous above mentions NYC. When I was job hunting I could not BELIEVE the low salaries of public librarians in NYC. It was sad.

We will always either tread water or lose

No matter how many people come in to use the library, staffing is always low priority.

I have been through several periods of economic rise and fall during my career, but by and large libraries are always bottom rung.

When the libraries get popular enough and the population of an area rises enough to warrant building new libraries, the public will always support bond issues for new buildings, but will not pay to fully staff them. The usual result is to partially create a few new jobs and to then spread existing jobs to staff the new libraries, resulting in a lower librarian per patron ratio. I have never seen this pattern not occur. In most cases, when the library director and library board are pushing for new buildings, they have to promise the local politicians that they will manage with fewer overall staff to run the new and larger library system.

Its primarily the reason I left public libraries. The patrons will tell you they love libraries. They promise the moon and the stars. They just want to pay slave wages.

The public expects that there is some vast supply of talented professionals who are willing to work for salaries that they themselves would find too absurdly low to accept for themselves, but will not pay for teachers, who usually have to have an extremely high degree of education and do a lot of continuing education credits to keep their certification, they will not pay decent salaries for librarians who work in basically terrible conditions compared to other professions, they will not provide annual XMAS bonuses etc, which are things that they expect from their own employer as their due, they will not pay police or firemen a living wage, but you have book editors and secretaries in New York City making 125,000 a year, who demand that teachers barely make the median wage for the city, which means they cannot even afford to live in the city they serve and public librarians in that city dont even earn that much. Police and firemen are lucky to pull 400 dollars a week. And this is not uncommon everywhere in the country.

Civil servants are not given the respect or salaries they deserve. Most perform more essential jobs for the community than most taxpayers do in their own work.

No we are not doing well, and most people who are currently using the library services to hunt down new jobs or simply for entertainment because they cannot afford their monthly netflix subscriptions or ten dollar best seller paperbacks will forget the libraries at their earliest convenience.

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