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From The Patriot Ledger:
About 200 library staff and trustees from across Massachusetts gathered outside the Statehouse in BostonTuesday, and they weren’t using their inside voices. Holding signs and chanting, “Don’t close the books on our libraries,” the librarians hoped their demonstration will help stave off further budget cuts to the state library system next year.
Last week, Gov. Deval Patrick cut $277 million from government offices under his control. Nearly $800,000 of that reduction came from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The cuts were part of an effort to close a $600 million revenue shortfall during the first three months of the state’s fiscal year.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio-- Fourteen patrons of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County, seven on each side of Carlton Sears, turned out their electric-bulb candles Wednesday afternoon as the director of the library read the name of the branch each represented.
They were part of a press event held in the main library to draw attention to the precarious financial position the system finds itself in as advocates for Issue 6, a one-mill operating levy to run five years, seek to persuade county residents to vote for renewal.
Billed as a “Lights-Out Read-In,” the event, attended by some 60 patrons, saw them hold flashlights to read their books (their own and those borrowed from the library) a minute or so as television news cameras captured the moment.
The event began at 5:30 p.m. as the main library in the county system closed at that hour for the first time instead of the usual 9 p.m. because of the 31% reduction in funding from the state.
14 October 2009
The Ashtabula Star Beacon carried a report from the Associated Press today noting the number of jobs saved or created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in Ohio. That number was only thirteen thousand. More than that has been lost since the Recovery Act's passage into law as the state's unemployment rate climbed from 9.5% in the month of passage to a preliminary number of 10.8% for August. September's data will be released later this month.
A ton of money has been spent. It is uncertain what there is to show for it. In lieu of just criticizing something, alternatives should be presented.
Rather than spending federal dollars on preserving jobs directly, infrastructure development might have helped better. The concept of the "bedroom community" is growing where people commute long distances from their home to their workplace. Ashtabula and Lake counties in northeast Ohio are prime examples of that in providing bedroom communities to the Cleveland metro area. Previously when our western engineer lived in Ashtabula County he routinely did round-trips to work on Cleveland's west side in excess of one hundred miles per day. He was not alone in doing this.
Along the way between Ohio's geographically largest county and its closest urban metro there is already one AMTRAK route that runs in the wee hours of the night. I myself have ridden those rails to and from conferences in Detroit as well as returning home for Thanksgiving from undergraduate studies. There is no station any more in Ashtabula County and the next closest stations are in Cleveland and then over the state line in Pennsylvania on Peach Street in Erie. A mass transit infrastructure is there and with some small modifications could be linked into the Greater Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority's network which itself already links to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Something better that funds could have been directed to that would have helped promote fuel conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, and more would have been to instead build up commuter service on the rail. Auto insurance costs alone from the hazards of winter driving in northeast Ohio would go down if those commuting from bedroom communities to Cleveland instead were on a train. The amount of fuel expended in commuting is greater in the winter as more parts of the vehicle have to operate compared to the summer months. The rock salt mix used on icy roads also causes enough corrosion on vehicles that the average life of an automobile before requiring replacement runs about three to five years. Between the hazards of driving in snow and the chance of deer strike, the potential for calamity would go down if a mass transit option for commuting were in play. Such would also create positions through creating rail stations and perhaps park & ride facilities to serve commuters. Conditions elsewhere along the rails could potentially also allow for such to be tried in other communities.
Why does this matter in the library setting? By and large, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 does nothing to directly help libraries. Libraries exist through the ability of patrons to be able to pay taxes for the upkeep of the libraries. In bedroom communities, the labor expended for wages does not happen locally but those wages are brought back to the community. Making it possible to have an economic base for a community to exist remains a prerequisite for a library to even be possible.
While scattered reports indicated that most of the jobs saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 were in K-12 education, there is more to life than the classroom. A tax base made up of mostly teachers is not a stable economic setting for trying to keep a library open. Since teacher pay comes out of taxes too, the question then becomes who was shaken down to get that money. Simple infrastructure upgrades, whether in improving mass transit or otherwise reducing a community's cost of living, might have the greater potential to lift economic baselines that make keeping library doors open possible.
All Aboard! by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
7 October 2009
There is a film titled "A Mighty Wind". It is a great film in the genre of the mockumentary. Unfortunately this piece is not about that film. Instead we get to talk about mighty winds.
Overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, northeast Ohio was battered with high-velocity winds. Wind gusts were estimated at points around forty-five miles per hour. Rain was scattered. Branches were felled by this mighty wind. This was something that would lead into something worse.
I was already woke up once by the whistling winds outside my bedroom windows. After I caught another two hours of sleep, I woke up to find a lack of power. The first priority, though, was to secure down the facility in light of the winds. This meant running around locking up the barn, checking on the corn crib that doubles as the "cat house" and more. The barn cats were no dummies and seemed to fly inside as soon as a door was opened.
After waiting a while in case the power outage was transient, we departed for somewhere with power. This part of Ohio has two seasons: "snow" and "not snow". It was getting cold and when we called the outage in to First Energy we were not even given an estimated time of restoration.
The outage pointed out some problems. First and foremost, my battery-operated transistor radio worked fine. I could hear WWOW's morning program just fine. The time signal on shortwave from WWV was still audible. Computers in the house were fancy-looking door stops. Laptop batteries have a particular mean time between failure and unfortunately some batteries were miserable failures. Desktops could not be fired up without electricity. The Apple portable media player had a decent battery charge but it was preserved for as long as possible.
While we went driving, we saw what looked to be part of the problem. Kingsville Township Volunteer Fire Department was out responding to a downed electrical line. The line was sparking and the field it was being buffeted around in due to the high winds bore scorch marks from the fires it started. This felt all too reminiscent of the huge outage in 2003 that covered a significant chunk of the northeastern United States as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. In that case a tree that fell started a cascade that wiped out power to many.
For librarians, this presents some interesting points. While the data cloud might be proposed to be a great tool, it would have been a miserable failure in the face of a power outage. If a Kindle were possessed on the farm it would have been useless for downloading as Sprint has no coverage at the farm. Although news was just released that AT&T will be eventually providing data coverage for Kindles, that would still not help here. Power had to be shepherded in battery operated devices as there was no way to know when service would be restored. That would wipe out any hope of mobile broadband or similar backstops for accessing the cloud. Thankfully the backup power supplies at the cell towers were intact long enough to call in outage reports but I would not have pushed my luck in seeking data through those means.
This was a case where books won out. Candlelight or the light from a hurricane lamp would be sufficient provided I could find my glasses. Analog tools like that did not need power to operate and would have carried through.
Fortunately the outage only lasted a few hours and service was restored for us by the early evening. Not everybody in northeast Ohio affected by this have seen service restored yet. This does leave an issue for librarians to ponder. While issues like irregular power are normally thought of as things happening to the poor abroad, what happens when the homeland does not seem as impervious to such problems? How do you plan effective information access over digital means in light of such?
An Ill Wind Blows by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
NPR story from a librarian, Cheri Campbell, who works at the library in Lorain, OH:
I work as a reference librarian at a public library in Lorain, Ohio, located about 30 minutes due west from Cleveland. Last Thursday, my library held a "recession resources fair" to help people find out how they could perhaps better "survive" in the current economy.
If someone approached my table, I greeted them and explained what the library could offer -- books on all aspects of the career search and job hunting process, computer access. I gave them handouts on resume help and offered my business card. If they seemed interested in that assistance, I then walked that person to the state employment agency table and introduced them to the counselor at that table, where they would then be told about what that agency could do for them -- job training, classes on interview skills and resume writing, referrals to GED and English language classes and more computers for job searching.
It was a concentrated version of what librarians do every day -- tell people about what we have and where else they might go for more help. But this time, the additional sources of help weren't a phone call away, but were maybe waiting for them inside a public library meeting room. I will likely never find out if anyone in that room received information or assistance that will make any kind of real difference in their lives. All any of us there could do was to try and help.
Deadheads rejoice! UC Santa Cruz has received a major grant to help digitize the Grateful Dead Archive at the University Library.
The campus was awarded a National Leadership Grant of $615,175 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)--the primary source of federal funds for the nation’s museums and libraries, one of fifty-one such grants awarded this year.
The grant will enable the UCSC Library to digitize materials from its Grateful Dead Archive and make them available in a unique and cutting-edge web site titled, “The Virtual Terrapin Station.” Report from UCSC.
Pretty soon, library patrons might have to stick to their hometown libraries or pay a fee to use other libraries' services, as local libraries struggle to cope with a proposed 40 percent cut in state aid.
A state Legislature conference committee voted Sunday to reduce state aid from $10 million to $6 million, setting the stage for votes in the House and Senate when their members return to work Tuesday.
After Harvard University lost $11 billion of endowment value last fiscal year, President Drew Faust is pulling the pursestrings rather tightly.
Harvard’s 70 libraries, for example, must work together to increase savings, she said in a speech today on campus in Cambridge. Schools and divisions across Harvard have to work together to cut the impact of the fund’s losses resulting from the global financial crisis, she said.
Harvard’s library system, which has more than 16 million volumes, is the oldest in the U.S. and the largest academic library system in the world, according to the school’s Web site. While the system is one of the school’s “proudest treasures,” it’s in need of better coordination, Faust said.
“Curious practices have grown up as the system has grown - - obstacles to sharing and coordination,” she said. Economic arrangements at the libraries discourage them from working together, she said. [Sound familiar?]
“Change in our library system is not a choice, but a necessity,” she said. “We need to ensure that we make that change in the wisest way possible.”
Schools can also see savings in their purchases of computers and other forms of information technology, she said.
“We must dedicate ourselves -- individually and collectively -- to harnessing the power of a more unified Harvard,” she said. Report from Bloomberg News.
Late Thursday afternoon, the Pennsylvania State senate passed bill 1828 by a vote of 32 to 17. For all of you who have been following the saga over the city's budget crisis, this is indeed the legislation that was needed for the City of Philadelphia to avoid the "Doomsday" Plan C budget scenario, which would have resulted in the layoff of 3,000 city employees and forced the closing of all libraries.
More from the Free Library's website.