Friday, April 29, 2011

Save the libraries, save civilization

I wrote this post twelve years ago, but the topic of defunding libraries has returned to the news, so I added the preview image above for better visibility and decided to start sharing it again.

In the very first post on this blog, I wrote:

Saving civilization is about preventing libraries falling into ruin while we build sports arenas and military bases.
Actually, saving the libraries might strike some people as frivolous, but remember that the way the humans in the book discovered the truth about moties was by stumbling into a museum designed to speed the rise of Motie civilization after the next collapse.  Another example involves Canticle for Leibowitz, the plot of which revolves around a monastery that includes a library the mission of which is to help revive civilization after its collapse.  So, it's not as stupid an idea as it seems.  Thanks to that suggestion, you can expect posts on saving cultural institutions during collapse, not just for how to keep yourself fed and safe.
I haven't been very good about doing so (I didn't even blog about the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra ending their strike, which fits the topic), but the Detroit Free Press has obliged me with an update.

Across metro Detroit, communities bracing for library closings
After Romulus voters rejected a 2.75-mill proposal in February, officials announced plans to close the city's library.

But members of the Friends of the Romulus Public Library hope to make a last-ditch plea to the council tonight that may keep the doors open or at worse, eliminate a permanent shutdown.

"If we close the library, we are denying people's rights," said Sylvia Makowski, president of the group. "It goes against democratic principles."
Now, that's a take on the situation that I like, and I wish to hear Ms. Makowski elaborare on that idea. Instead, the article quotes the mayor, who points out the economic benefits of the library.
"The library is not just for kids, but our seniors and those who are using online services," Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert said. "In this economy people are using the library to do their résumés and for other job services."
Remember, this article is about austerity, which means the question becomes where does one find the money. The Friends of the Romulus Public Library have an answer.
The group has a plan that includes a 0.2-mill levy, which would cost residents about $8.50 more in taxes a year.

The millage defeated in February included support for other services and would have cost residents between $150 and $300 in increased taxes.
Looks like the library was collateral damage.

Romulus isn't the only community where the libraries are in danger.
At a time when demand is soaring, communities such as Detroit, Dearborn and Troy are facing major obstacles to keeping library doors open.
Check out that roll call.  All of them get their turn in this article, and then some.
Gretchen Couraud, executive director of the Michigan Library Association, said the issue is not declines in state revenue sharing, but in tax revenues.

"I would advise residents to talk to the Legislature and tell them that libraries are important," Couraud said. "There has been erosion at every level."
If you want libraries, you're going to have to vote for them, get others to vote for them, and find ways to pay for them. As for why...
Couraud said library usage across the country is rising. Nearly one-third of all Americans turn to their neighborhood libraries for Internet access.
Can you say "digital divide?" I knew you could. BTW, that theme is repeated in community after community, especially Detroit.
Just one month after laying off 83 employees, Detroit Public Library officials are meeting to discuss closing 12 to 18 of its 23 branches.
...[C]commissioners are also considering closing the libraries for 30 to 60 days to avoid shutting branches entirely.
At least the system as a whole will remain open. The same could be said about Dearborn.
In Dearborn, Mayor Jack O'Reilly announced that the city needed to cut $20 million from its budget, which may mean a library branch closure. The city has already laid off several librarians and consolidated children's services from the city's three library branches to the Henry Ford Centennial Library.
What about Bloomfield Hills and Troy, the poster children of cities in Metro Detroit who either have lost access to other cities' libraries or whose own libraries are in danger of closing?
[B]loomfield Hills, which never had a library of its own, city officials are negotiating with the directors of Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham to give Bloomfield Hills residents full borrowing privileges.
Birmingham would be a better match for Bloomfield Hills than Troy, which the city had been using. It turns out Troy has issues of its own.
Troy's library was originally scheduled to close Sunday. But on April 18, the City Council postponed the closing until May 16, hoping to find a way to fund the library.
Troy Mayor Louise Schilling said she would seek a dedicated millage for the library, releasing its dependence on the city's general operating budget.

Schilling said she hopes a library millage is on the November ballot.
I do, too, Madame Mayor, and I know people who would campaign for it, too. I hope you get together with them.

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