Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Public Libraries at Risk?!!

Here a distressing item I read in USA Today:
US Libraries on Borrowed Time?

I confess I didn't use the library as much as I should have, in the recent past. My wife made regular use of it for herself, and for the kid's books. But I alway held a fondness for the library. I used the library as a poor kid as place to do my homework, and explore the world through books. When I first started my freelance art career, the New York Public Library was where I got books and pictures references for assignments, way before the web came into being.

I now work part-time at the local branch and it feels like "I've come home", again. It's a perfect fit for all my interests, art, music, technology, etc. In the current depressing climate, the library is a great asset to the community. Free loan of books, movies, DVDs, free computer access, and much more. This is a cornerstone of Amercian life started by one of our founding fathers, Ben Franklin. To think this grand asset would be left to fade away due to lack of funds in a horrible thought.

Like a lot of public services deemed a low priority by small minded politicians, library budgets are being slashed incredibly, and private contributions are falling. They are operating on shoe-string budgets, which force cutbacks in much needed patron services and staffing needs. Librarians, like teachers are not highly paid, but they should be. A lot of the library service staff are part-time, ranging from college students to old farts, like me. Many positions, and tasks, are filled, and done, by volunteers of all ages, especially senior citizens. This is truly a community staffed and run local operation.

So, support your local library. With money, or your time. Next time you're looking for that hot best seller, skip Barnes and Noble, and Borders, and head to the library. Think of it as a form of going "Green", in a way. You get to read the book, it you like it, you can still buy it later. Return it to the library and someone else gets to use it (can this be considered recycling?) Less trees have to be cut down for less books produced wastefully. Plus, libraries have great book sales. My library, Brighton Memorial Library of Rochester, New York, has a bookstore run by the Friends of BML, a non-profit patron group who help fund various library activities. New hardback books can be purchased for $3 to $4, tops. (I picked up a $30 oversized hardback copy of Frank Miller's "300" graphic novel for $3.00) A lot of the books are patron donations and in excellent condition. Need a DVD for the weekend, try the library. It's faster that Netflix (unless you use the download service, but still cheaper). I urge everyone to consider volunteering your time, and creative talent, to your public library. Donate your unwanted books, DVDs (hold on the VHS there being fazed out, and they take up a lot of space), music CDs, and spoken word CDs to the library. Some will be added to library circulating collection, or offered for sale with the proceeds going to the library. These are just a few thoughts on subject. You won't regret it.

For the record, I like the Borders, and Barnes and Noble, book stores, but at the end of the day you're a "customer" to them. At the public library you're a "patron".

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