Libraries In Trouble

July 10, 2010

Libraries are in trouble all across the United States. Read the article by Wall Street Journal columnist Cynthia Crossen here. There is a website about to launch which will display on a map all the U.S. libraries which have closed, decreased hours, let go staff or been hit with significant decreases to their operating budgets. It will be a frightening sight when completed.

Libraries that are still open these days are seeing double-digit increases in their usage. Even in “the best small town in America” Essex, CT, we are seeing such increases in usage. Many folks are coming in to use our computers to look for or apply for jobs, write their resumes or learn new computer skills to qualify for a better position. Our circulation is up and attendance at our educational and entertaining  programs is higher than ever. Our summer reading programs help kids maintain their literacy skills. During the recent heat wave, people came in to cool off in the air-conditioned building and enjoyed magazines and other materials as well as catching up with friends and neighbors.

But we are subject to the recession as well. The town of Essex contributes to our operating budget but only a portion. We are beholden to our users and community for the majority of our funding which comes from private donations. We were forced to cut our hours and close on Sundays a while back. We have lost staff members and have had to cut our budget for materials and programs. These are tough times for many people but we shouldn’t lose sight of the value a good library brings to a community:

More than a building that houses books and data, the Library has always been a window to a larger world–a place where we’ve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward. . . . . Libraries remind us that truth isn’t about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information. Because even as we’re the most religious of people, America’s innovative genius has always been preserved because we also have a deep faith in facts. And so the moment we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold into a Library, we’ve changed their lives forever, and for the better. This is an enormous force for good.”  ~~ Barack Obama  June, 2005.

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