Thursday, June 25, 2009

The importance of libraries

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I live a long way from Ohio, but I see what is happening there as a huge canary in the mine.

In Missouri, the legislature cut most of the funding for the Missouri Scholars' Academy and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, programs to encourage talented high school students in the summer between their sophomore and their junior years. The Scholars' Academy helped change our son's life. He is now a PhD chemical engineer. He started on that track at Scholars' Academy. Prior to that, he was just a small town high school student who had given little thought to what he could do to make a difference in the world (or to his responsibility to do it).

So now, in Ohio, it is libraries they want to cut.

I've read that libraries are life savers in recessions. They provide computer access for the unemployed looking for jobs.

Go to the library, and you find entertainment (books and DVDs). Libraries do summer children's programs and workshops for the unemployed.

During this dangerously hot summer, our library is one of the cooling stations, one of the places people without life-saving air conditioning can go.

So what do we do? We cut funding for things like libraries.

A couple years ago, our former GOP governor (Matt Blunt) was so proud of himself because he and the legislature cut tens of thousands of families and children off Medicaid. I had served on the board of a small community hospital. I understood that every time the government cuts Medicaid, unreimbursed visits to emergency rooms skyrocket and we all pay even more than we would have to pay by supporting Medicaid.

All too often, our governors and state legislators get things wrong.

This recession is difficult enough without cutting important things like libraries.

PS To find out a bit more about what is happening in Ohio, go here or here or here.


Corey Wilde said...

Thanks for your support, Joe.

Politicians too often look for the weakest political constituency when making cuts. I think the Guv made a mistake by thinking meek librarians and book nerds would just roll over for a cut this deep. The depth and scope of the backlash had him on radio yesterday calling librarians "disingenuous and manipulative."

I think that's hilarious (and another H-word) coming from a politician.

Here's hoping we can, if not stop the cut, at least keep it reasonable. And here's hoping that library systems and educators in the other 49 are watching and learning.

Joe Barone said...

I hope you an keep the cuts reasonable too. Mid list writers depend on libraries for their voices to be heard, and small-time writers like me understand that when I look and find my book in hundreds of libraries, that means several thousand readers over the whole nation.

To me, the wisest thing I've ever read is Pogo's, "We have met the enemy and he is us." All of us should have been caring for and supporting our libraries more along the way.

Helen said...

Joe - in Princeton they are having a big donation thing going to add on the the library there. They have raised quite a lot of money and are still working on it as the library has gotten so small with all the new stuff since it was built. They will get it done I am sure of it!!!

Joe Barone said...

You have to be proud of Princeton for that. Libraries are important to all communities, maybe especially to small towns.