If you followed me over from Chronicles of a Library School Student, you’ll probably remember that I am not a fan of the Annoyed Librarian. Yes, she is one of the most-read and popular librarian bloggers (there are tons of us out there!), but a good bit of the time, I seriously disagree with what she has to say. Not that I don’t love sarcasm in a blog, but her style of writing is not to my taste. Yet I continue to read the blog… Despite my feelings about the AL, most of her posts are really relevant and always have lots of good links and information about what’s going on in the library world. In fact, a lot of my blog posts on my old blog were inspired by something I read on the Annoyed Librarian.
Today I came across an article she had linked in a post about the usefulness of a librarian. I feel strongly about this, but we’ll save that for another day! This particular article that was cited was about budget cuts in the city of Phoenix. The president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, Mark Spencer, said that the city is in “economic triage”. The PLEA suggests cutting programs and services that are not crucial to the city, instead of doing budget cuts all around. Items on the list to cut are libraries, transportation, and services to seniors. Services not to cut funding to are the police, the fire department, and other public safety organizations.
Now I fully understand that the city is in financial trouble; most cities are. And I understand that budgets are going to be cut across the board. Libraries tend to be undervalued (again, another post for another time!) and are usually, along with the arts, the first services that feel the budget crunch. What really made me mad in this article was that Mr. Spencer compared libraries to cosmetic surgery. Basically he said that libraries are just there for fluff, or in this analogy, to make you look good. That is so not true. In this time of economic turmoil, most public libraries are seeing jumps in patronage. Many people are realizing that the public library offers more than just pleasure-reading books and now come for the free internet, job hunting resources, magazines, and DVDs. Librarians are doing everything they can to serve these new patrons to the best of their ability, despite dwindling budgets. Maybe library services, especially books and DVDs, are “wants” and not “needs” in terms of budgets for a city, but keeping services that provide free help to the community is crucial in attracting new business and supporting the overall moral of a city. I hope that Mr. Spencer takes the time to speak to the local librarians and discovers that, while libraries aren’t providing life saving services, they are incredibly important to an already suffering community.
What do you think? Should libraries be closed in a case of “economic triage”?