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Friday, April 16, 2010

Will You Miss Us If We’re Gone?

Writing in “The Huffington Post,” Art Brodsky expressed what many library professionals across the country are feeling – public libraries are in trouble. ("Our Public Library Lifeline Is Fraying. We'll Be Sorry When It Snaps," April 11, 2010 )

Basically, during an economic downturn as severe as this, towns, cities, counties and states across the nation have to make difficult decisions. How does a jurisdiction measure the value of the public library when it has to provide schools, police, fire, transportation, road repair and other essential services to its taxpayers?

Brodsky explains the issue well:

“One problem for libraries in some jurisdictions is that they don't fit squarely into any one policymaker's domain, like public safety or a school system. Libraries serve a range of purposes - they help teach children to read, they help students work on projects, they provide meeting space for tutoring, they provide Internet access. They serve students, seniors, immigrants. They provide assistance to the unemployed. Libraries combine education, workforce development, socialization, recreation. But they aren't the school board, or a social services agency, and so generally get buried in the larger budgets.”

Certainly, the information landscape has changed and libraries are no longer just repositories for books, but they continue to be a reliable source for information. They continue to be archival keepers of our past. They continue to support the right of individuals to make informed decisions.

Those of us who work in public libraries cannot imagine a world without them. Can you?

Image courtesy of the American Library Association.


Rebecca said...

This posting is incredibly timely since my Public Library Seminar class at the University of Maryland is beginning to explore how libraries themselves try to determine the value of their services and how they try to demonstrate that value to decision makers and the community at large. I would love to hear your point of view on this interesting topic.

Fairfax County Public Library said...

In the recent FY2011 budget process that is winding down here in Fairfax, our Friends, Board members, staff employee association emphasized how much the library was integral to the goal of a quality education that the Supervisors espouse. We shared statistics on children's programs, early literacy outreach, homework support. We also pointed out that while the library is only 1 percent of the county budget, our services touch 65 percent of the county residents who own library cards. We did have a small percentage of proposed cuts restored, but we still will be cutting library hours drastically.