Ex Libris

Stifle your murmurs of, "You keep using that [phrase]. I do not think it means what you think it means." Philadelphia's Public Libraries - every one - will be closing Oct. 2 due to budget shortfalls. I haven't been to a public library in nearly a year. I'd venture to guess that most of my yuppie friends (those without kiddies) have gone much longer without setting foot in one. That said, I fully recognize their important place in making knowledge open and free to everyone.

This kind of post usually devolves into a heady diatribe about the need for an informed electorate, and that's true. But besides that, a library is a cultural node. It is a community center - often the site of many organizations and activities. It promotes the arts to those often unlikely to encounter them. Today, it provides those who cannot afford it at home access to the internet. Turning that off is literally shutting them off from the mainstay of the new economy in which we expect them to compete.

It is, in short, a very, very bad idea.


Anonymous said...

As a former public library employee (I worked at my hometown library for 4 years) I'm saddened by this news. The library I worked at was not only a de facto community center but it was a place of quiet refuge from daily life.

I'm also saddened by the notion that your yuppie friends may not be using their libraries. There are few better places (if any) to spend hours with children, letting them expand their own horizons and try things out without expending huge sums of money.

I still use my library on a weekly basis, reading widely and enjoying the freedom to choose books and put them down if I don't like them.


David said...

I'm not sure whether I count a yuppie (that "young" part keeps tripping me up...), but Sarah and I use public libraries all the time (although Arlington County > DC...)

That's very, very sad news about Philadelphia, and I sure hope that doesn't happen in our neck of the woods.

Then again, wait a second: a PL system has an annual budget. Salaries are fixed expenses annually, as are maintenance, etc. When does their fiscal year end? Was their budget cut out from under them, or is this the result of spending overruns? It's hard for me to imagine the level of funding crisis which would take a system that big (1 main library and 23 branches) from fully functioning directly to closed without a few intermediate steps (close half the branches, close early, reduce hours, etc) - is this brinksmanship?