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That is the question that has been raised by a commenter in Will Manley's blog Will Unwound. The proposal is to legalize marijuana and prostitution and tax them heavily to help finance publically supported libraries. Reactions are invited
LA Times Op-Ed by library aficionado and author Marilyn Johnson:
The U.S. is beginning an interesting experiment in democracy: We're cutting public library funds, shrinking our public and school libraries, and in some places, shutting them altogether.
These actions have nothing to do with whether the libraries are any good or whether the staff provides useful service to the community. This country's largest circulating library, in Queens, N.Y., was named the best system in the U.S. last year by Library Journal. Its budget is due to shrink by a third. Los Angeles libraries are being slashed, and beginning this week, the doors will be locked two days a week and at least 100 jobs cut. And until it got a six-month reprieve June 23, Siskiyou County almost became California's only county without a public library. Such cuts and close calls are happening across the country. We won't miss a third of our librarians and branch libraries the way we'd miss a third of our firefighters and firehouses, the rationale goes … but I wonder. -- Read More
As Gov. Rendell prepares to sign a $28 billion state budget that cuts aid to libraries by 9 percent, or $5.4 million, things are likely to get worse. To Pennsylvania's 624 public libraries - whose state funding was slashed 20 percent last year - the new budget reads like a book with the climactic ending ripped out. In recent years, libraries have coped with repeated rollbacks in funding by reducing hours and staff, charging small fees for borrowing movies and CDs, and scaling back on book-buying and special programs, such as the popular children's story time. Now, librarians say, they will have to pare even more while library use is higher than ever - thanks in large part to the economy. A spokesman for Rendell defended the latest cuts as the necessary cost of the recession. "The state can't print money," Gary Tuma said Friday. "We have to balance the budget with what we have." [Personal Note - they say they can't "print money" but Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislative body that wastes incredible amounts of money solely for political reasons - e.g., both the republicans and democrats have their own separate printing departments - and that's just the tip of the iceberg].
Read more at: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/97751079.html
Lenora Oftedahl flagged on the PNLA list a story by Fox Chicago News. This television station is located in the same geographic area as ALA Headquarters. In light of the Illinois Budget Crisis, one writer at the station questioned whether libraries were justifiable expenses or if the money could be better spent shoring up policing, education, and public pension budgets instead.
Anne Shepherd, library director, said libraries have quickly become sources of e-government – governmental services that now deal with business online whereas before there was an office people would visit to do business.
This first started with early voting, Shepherd said, which was the first time the library was particularly impacted by large amounts of people coming for nontraditional library services. Then the economy changed.
“In the past, what we saw was people coming in to read their e-mail, print boarding passes, kind of fun or recreational uses of the computers,” Shepherd said. “And now, starting about three years ago, we saw a big change, where people are coming in desperate. Sometimes in tears. ‘I have to apply, I don’t have a job, I want to apply, I don’t know how to use a computer.’ And at first we were kind of shocked, like how could these agencies have done this to these people, but then we decided we couldn’t do anything about that. Instead, what we’ll do is learn how to help these people.”
San Diego is getting a new expensive main library. The City Council took an historic vote last night to go ahead with construction of a new central library downtown.
Anyone who has lived in San Diego for a while knows that the dream of a new central library has been in and out of the news for years. The architect, Rob Quigely, designed its imposing dome shape in the 1990s. The site on Park Boulevard in the East Village was chosen a decade later, and now, finally, a contract will be signed to break ground. The First phase is estimated to cost about $150 million.
Mayor Jerry Sanders reminded the city council that $17 million has already gone into planning and well over $100 million has been scraped together so far to build it. Another $32 million is required to finish the job. Without that, the doors won’t be able to open in 2014, the state mandated deadline. The vote was not unanimous.
“We’ve invested nearly 20 years into planning for this new central library,” Sanders said. “As you make your decision, I want to remind you that not one cent of this project’s funding can be used for other city services. It can’t be used for branch libraries, can’t put additional police or firefighters on the streets, and it can’t be used to fix potholes.
The Voice of Vision program, which provides talking books to visual or physical impaired residents in 12 counties, including dozens in Geneva and Batavia, has received funding to remain open for at least another year.
The DuPage Library System, which operated Voices of Vision in Geneva, and the Illinois State Library have signed an agreement to keep the center open thanks to a grant from the federal Library Services and Technology Act.
The center was slated to close after July this year because it had not received 97 percent of its 2010 grant from the state, which was worth about $450,000.
Authors fear cut in income from library loans
Minor romantic novelists might not be the first group to come to mind when you consider deprived victims of the current public spending cuts. But they and a host of the UK's lesser known authors are up in arms at the prospect of a drop in their already limited incomes through cuts in the money paid out on library loans.
In an call to action for libraries in the Huffington Post, Carol Fitzgerald of Bookreporter.com gave advice on what to do to fight the proposals by many local governments to cut library services--or in the case of her hometown, Cedar Grove, N.J., to cut the library system entirely.
"Write your Senators impassioned letters on what libraries have meant and mean to you today. Talk about how important all libraries--school, public and college--are to this country and how awful it will be when they start closing or experience devastating reductions in services. The more personal the note, the more effective.... Also, consider writing an Op-Ed piece or other article for your local paper."
Don't forget to check in at Save Libraries for the latest news on how libraries around the country are faring and what can be done to help. Another site in the same vein (although I think saving is a lot more encouraging than losing), Losing Libraries, in cooperation with Library Journal.
If passed, New York's Gov. Paterson's proposed budget cuts would bring state funding to libraries down to just $84.5 million.
In the Westchester Library System (WLS), half of the 38 public libraries have cut back their hours due to budget cuts just since 2008, and 50 full-time jobs have been eliminated in only the past year.
"Given the state's fiscal woes, reductions in state spending are unfortunately unavoidable – yet funding for our libraries cannot be further compromised," said State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer.
Calling the library system a "great equalizer" she noted that libraries serve the greater community in a way so few organizations do: "They are places where individuals of any means can find answers to their questions in a very calm sanctuary."
Dave Donelson, a Trustee of the WLS, slammed the proposed budget, and juxtaposed the need and demand for public libraries to ticket sales of major-league baseball. " There were over 8 million visits to Westchester libraries in 2009," said Donelson. "That's more than a full season attendance at Yankee Stadium."
"Libraries are not just a depository of books; libraries are places where teenagers gather after school, where seniors come for help navigating the maze of our health insurance system, and where thousands of people come for help finding a job," he said.
Photos and story of the protest from Chappaqua Patch.