The Sword and Laser discussion

Library Closures

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message 1: by Hilary (new)

Hilary A (hilh) | 40 comments I've been reading about more and more library closures including the CA gov trying to cut all public library funding. I was wondering about everyone's opinion on this for two reasons:

1) Growing up the library was my favorite place to be at. Instead of focusing on just what my friends were reading (which included a bit too much Sweet Valley books) I could just roam around and find new authors and fall in love with new categories. In fact, I knew my best friend was to be when we could both make a date in a library/bookstore for hours on end and actually be happy. Losing this little bit of community would be distressing (to me at least).

2) Being the poor college student I am now, public libraries actually have books that I wish to read that aren't purely academic. With books being non-essential, I cannot buy the books I want to read and therefore turn to the libraries. Plus, librarians are amazingly knowledgeable about books and always point out great new authors that I wouldn't have considered.

What would you do if your library got shut down? (Especially those with ebook readers and the income to buy books) Would you even notice? Looking forward to the responses!

message 2: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Warren (ashleynoel) I work as a librarian so I am constantly advocating for the relevancy of libraries in communities. So yes, I would definitely notice if they closed! While e-readers may seem counterproductive to libraries, many librarians openly embrace the new technology and encourage patron's usage of them. Essentially, we support whatever gets people to read more. Libraries can be more than just houses for books; that's why many have some great computer labs and offer other resources to check out (the library I work at checks out robot and lego kits to patrons). We also plan programs, such as video game night or books-to-movie weeks. Libraries are entirely still relevant and vital to communities.

message 3: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6376 comments Libraries should have cafes. :)

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments What the governments are overlooking is the uses of public libraries beyond just materials. They are the sole internet access for thousands/millions of people who are looking for jobs, taking classes to get better jobs, filing their taxes, and so on. Public libraries are also repositories for government information and the general public's access to it.

It might be true that books are moving to electronic form, but people who can't afford them will still want to get them through the library (or people who just believe that taxes already pay for them so why pay twice, like me). It might be true that "practically everything is available online." Oh wait, did you see me roll my eyes at that one? What I've learned in working with library users, even if I'm an academic librarian - the more information there is, the more help people need.

At public libraries, librarians serve another really cool function, that of readers advisory. They take it really seriously and are often the most informed of what is out there and how books are connected. I love my public librarians for this, and hope I never have to face the day where I can't walk in the door and pick up a book I've put on hold.

I agree with Ashley that libraries are community centers and often the only place like that in a town. There is a lot of effort put into programming and collaborative space and technological innovation. But all of these things take money. Of course less people will utilize a poorly funded library, so the government that already short-changes its library is going to be able to make that argument. Much to their shame.

message 5: by Jason G (new)

Jason G Gouger (jason_g) | 50 comments I don't think I'd notice personally if the local library got shut down but I'd be saddened by the fact if it was. All too often when the money crunch happens governments (and I'm including the school system in this too) cut out the arts and culture programs from their funding and it's doing such a disservice to our culture as a whole when it happens.

Slicing out library funding would be like that. There's probably hundreds of other cuts that could be made, things that are less efficient, more wasteful, but public spending on the arts and cultural centers are an easy target. So they cut out libraries and public funding for the arts and then wonder why (speaking from a US perspective here) we're falling behind other parts of the world. Cultural centers are hugely important in ways that can't be measured in dollars and cents.

message 6: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments The local library around here is a private institution funded by grants and donations instead of taxes, so there are no worries about budget cuts -- or at least no more than usual.

message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 11 comments I would definitely notice and be sad if my local library closed. I can afford to buy my own books, but a library is more to me than just a place to borrow books. During my childhood it was an important part of my life and I associate my love of reading with my parents bringing me regularly to the library. Now my kids like to go check out books, play on computers (eventhough we have computers at home), and just be around other kids. I may read my own books at times, but I am a regular at my local library too and would miss it greatly.

message 8: by R.H. (new)

R.H. Watson (rh_watson) | 45 comments Tamahome wrote: "Libraries should have cafes. :)"

In the right market, that might work. Unfortunately, my local public library tried it a few years ago, and there wasn't enough business to keep the cafe open. I appreciate that they were willing to try.

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments Yeah, in our county the main library pulls it off, also running a Friends of the Library book store. The branches don't attempt such feats.

message 10: by Brad Theado (new)

Brad Theado | 217 comments I would hate to see them go but it wouldn't affect me beyond the idea that for a lot of people ebook readers are not an option due to cost or preference. I haven't been in a library for at least 5 years.

message 11: by Boots (new)

Boots (rubberboots) | 499 comments I love the library. I'm not sure if I would read books at all if it didn't exist. Most of the people I know don't read books (in some cases proudly). They don't say anything but sometimes I wonder if they get sick of me talking about how great my local library system is.

message 12: by John (new)

John Bullock (beagrie) | 120 comments I can't really make an argument either way, as I was a very late bloomer in terms of reading, and never really grew up with any kind of library culture, but I wanted to comment on Ashley and Jenny's remarks about the library being like a community centre.

What you both said makes perfect sense; in world that is increasingly moving away from physical media of all kinds, it's better for libraries to focus more on the cool things they do that aren't just book housing.

However, like most people (I would assume) I have become very jaded with governments (living in England in the last eight months would have done that to anyone, regardless) and I fear that if this kind of pitch is made to a government, libraries could risk being turned into modern day arcades, with the emphasis so much on the community centre aspect that you might end up with a building full of kids who have no interest in reading (on any medium) and perhaps a pitiful bookshelf in the corner.

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments It is always a balance. I think a lot of the smartest programming ties into the library collections in some way. Create your own graphic novels. Songs about the earth. Puzzles and brain power. Then the public spaces are more isolated and are rentable.

One of my favorite libraries in the Indianapolis system when I lived there had this amazing quiet reading room with fountains and work space, because they were situated in a mall and had a lot of loud patrons that had wandered in. So they welcomed them but still provided a solution for the old school library users.

Some libraries have dealt with cost restrictions in other ways. Minneapolis utilizes self check-out and self check-in. Some libraries use an automated request and hold locker type system. I'm not a fan of this, as it clearly removes staff and the personal touch, but if I had to decide between that and closing the library entirely... well. That would be difficult.

message 14: by Nate Frary (new)

Nate Frary | 19 comments I love the self checkout at my local library.

message 15: by Turi (new)

Turi Becker (turi_b) | 13 comments In the last 3 years, I've read over 100 books a year, 95% of which were checked out of my library. I should do the math and figure out how much money that's saved me over buying the books. Certainly I wouldn't read as much if our library was closed...

message 16: by Micah (last edited Jan 22, 2011 12:19PM) (new)

Micah (onemorebaker) | 1071 comments I read a quote on awhile back that said "Cutting libraries during a recession is like cutting hospitals during a plague." That quote has stuck with me for awhile now. I couldn't agree more. Right when people need the knowledge most, a lot of libraries are losing funding.

California's Library system has been in trouble for decades. I grew up in a small town in Northern California and we had good library. And the county seat had a one that was 10x as big. But by the time I was in high school (late 90's) the local library had closed completely and the county one was only open 3 days a week. It always seems like libraries are the first to go when any kind of a budget crisis hits. And then the funding never comes back when the money starts flowing again.

I now live in Texas and our local library is small but well stocked and has something like 25 desktop/laptop computers for people to use. Sadly most of the time when I am browsing for books I see mostly myspace or facebook pages up on peoples browser. I take my 2 daughters there and they love to get new books every 2 weeks. We have had to start limiting them to 4 books each, or else they would take the entire shelf home if they were allowed to. Heck my wife and I probably would if we could too...

message 17: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Micah wrote: "California's Library system has been in trouble for decades...."

Let's face it, California is just in trouble, period. The sooner we sell it back to Mexico, the better.

(Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Utah, you're on notice.)

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments I saw a poster today that said "Libraries will carry you through times with no money more than money will carry you through times with no library."

Aww. :)

message 19: by Tamahome (last edited Jan 22, 2011 08:42PM) (new)

Tamahome | 6376 comments I haven't read it, but Jo Walton's Among Others Among Others by Jo Walton is dedicated to libraries.

message 20: by Hilary (new)

Hilary A (hilh) | 40 comments Oh, forgot to mention, my home country of Singapore has been utilizing the whole self check-in/check out system for as long as I remember. The check your book out via librarian system is something I recall only of my childhood. We basically place our national/school ID card and scan the books ourselves and a receipt prints out after we are done, indicating the due date. We do our own renewals too. This applies to CDs, DVDs etc. Returning is done via book-drop which automatically scans the book and marks it returned into the system.

IMHO this frees up the librarians to plan more events and be of more help to the library-goers. They plan the typical book-reading to kids to basic computer usage classes for senior citizens, to hosting book reading reward systems during the school holidays to encourage reading. I honestly feel that the personal touch thing is not lost because the librarians now have the time to actually interact with the patrons beyond checking books in/out.

I think this is a very very important point that I completely forgot to factor into my initial post because the libraries back home are, in general, more efficient than here, and thus use less resources, and are therefore less of a strain on the budget. Of course, my country is the size of a city, but it would be nice to see more efficient systems in place in libraries here if it helps ensure that more money gets funneled into such an important point of community.

message 21: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments Unfortunately, the more governments overstep their basic responsibilities, the more their basic responsibilities are neglected. Instead of using the KISS method, governments keep trying to be all things to all people. Police, fire, waste disposal, utilities, the mail, libraries, fixing potholes, etc. are the types of services they should be focused on providing. American government is too bloated and complicated, and essentially broken. It's time to get back to the basics.

message 22: by Paul (new)

Paul Davidson (paulbd) My mother use to do the summer reading program for my county's library so I spent a lot of time in them while I was younger. When I got to college I rediscovered my love for libraries with the campus libraries. I found them the perfect place to do homework, browse books, and spend times with my friends who were studying.

I believe that the key to keeping library's alive revolves around community programs for children. That is the main thing keeping the libraries in my communities alive. But this goes back to the Patchwork Nation kind of argument that different communities have different priorities. For those who live in communities that don't value their libraries as much I feel sorry for you.

message 23: by Micah (new)

Micah (onemorebaker) | 1071 comments Sean wrote: "Let's face it, California is just in trouble, period. The sooner we sell it back to Mexico, the better.

(Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Utah, you're on notice.) "

Made me LOL. For real. That state is way to beautiful to sell back to Mexico. From the giant redwoods up north to the endless beaches down south it's a great state. Just fiscally retarded. Maybe the threat alone would be enough to shape 'em up.

message 24: by Linda (new)

Linda (lindawilkins) I'm very lucky to have a gorgeous library in my area. I remember when the old one was getting pretty shabby, and I saw the plans to build a new one - I couldn't wait. It has a coffee shop where you can get snacks, and also in nice weather walk out onto a small patio (it's on a second floor). It's quite large, and when you first walk in you see a beautiful stone fireplace with sofas and coffee table for relaxing with a good book by a fire - really nice this time of year. They call it The Heart of the Town.

This is a pic of the sculptures on the front lawn:

Here is the middle front (there's a lot more on each side of the entrance):

Inside a portion of it:

Can you tell I love it!

message 25: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (shaeon) Tamahome wrote: "Libraries should have cafes. :)"

My library of choice does have a cafe, but I've never used it myself. I was at my library last night, which was a Wednesday - noteworthy because I live in Alabama where Wednesday is a dead night everywhere because everyone is at church. Nonetheless, the library was not just busy but crowded. There were teenagers everywhere, there was a Spanish language group having a meeting, there were moms with young kids. And then adults like me, just looking for some stuff they wanted and needed.

This particular library is in a community where there are lots of needs that it fills - a large Spanish speaking population, a good school system, lots of people with young kids, and lots of young adults that don't have a large income. The cafe is a nice perk. I'm sure I'll make use of it one day when I'm having a long afternoon at the library and really need a snack. But it's only able to succeed because the library was doing well to begin with. I don't think you can just add on a cafe and expect that to be the thing that makes people say "ok, NOW I'll go to the library".

message 26: by Paul (new)

Paul | 26 comments LindaW wrote: "I'm very lucky to have a gorgeous library in my area. I remember when the old one was getting pretty shabby, and I saw the plans to build a new one - I couldn't wait. It has a coffee shop where you..."

Linda, that is a beautiful building.

message 27: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments I live in California and it doesn't surprise me that they're trying to cut state funding for libraries. Our new/old governor wants to filter responsibility for these kinds of things back to local governments. Unfortunately, the local governments are strapped because the state government takes the bulk of the property tax money collected for the general fund and for redistribution. It's really bad for the schools. Schools in poor areas get a lot of money from the state and schools in rich areas usually have voters willing to vote in special assessments for schools. The schools in middle class areas are rapidly deteriorating because people in those areas are already taxed beyond what they can afford and will not vote in special assessments. California has the highest tax rates in the U.S. and just can't or won't get its spending under control. Yes, libraries are a priority and should be funded. If property tax money were left in local control, they probably would be.

message 28: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Gass | 36 comments My local library in Charlotte has faced huge budget cuts over the last year. They had to cut their staff by 40% and their service hours by about 50%. I recently started volunteering at the local branch and I can say that it is very rewarding. All I have been doing is shelving books but the regular staff cannot keep up with the shelving duties. It is really sad to see an institution that is truly a resource for the community that everyone, regardless of political leanings should be able to get behind. Some of my fondest memories are of the library and going their with my family. A note on cost of books: My family and I have recently decided to only purchase books if they are not available at the library, this will lower our total expenditures and also support the library by keeping their circulation numbers up. When I go to volunteer the library is absolutely packed with people reading, studying, having meetings, checking out books and videos, etc. It is a true community resource.

message 29: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments Jeff brings up a good point. We really need to be using our libraries. The library in my city is a tiny branch of the really crappy county library system. Because I couldn't find books I wanted to read (like A Clockwork Orange and Brave New World!), I started exclusively buying books. When I realized how much money I was spending on books, I paid $25.00 for a library card from the city library in the city next to us. It's actually closer to my house than the crappy library in my city and always gets the newest books that I want to read. I think this library gets a lot of donations of new books from its patrons. I know I recently won a combination of the hardback AND audio CD versions of Full Dark, No Stars and decided to donate the audio version to the library, unopened. They were really happy to get it. I always have at least one library book checked out even though I have a lot of books that I own and need to read.

message 30: by Elton (new)

Elton Gahr I need to give my local library another chance. I loved the one in the town I grew up in but I had a couple frustrating experiences with the library system where I live now but it's been a while since then.

message 31: by Al (new)

Al | 159 comments Sandi wrote: "California has the highest tax rates in the U.S...."

Fact check:

In 1977 we were 4th highest, in 2008 we're 11th.

message 32: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments Al wrote: "Sandi wrote: "California has the highest tax rates in the U.S...."

Fact check:

In 1977 we were 4th highest, in 2008 we're 11th."

Splitting hairs there, bud. After per capita rates, you then get into what they're doing with the tax revenue. And a blind man could see the politicians aren't very good stewards of their citizens' money in California. Then again, how many state governments are good stewards of the money they collect in taxes? A short list, I'd say.

message 33: by Sandi (last edited Jan 31, 2011 09:23PM) (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments According to this 2011 report,, California ranks #49 for business tax climate. This report takes income tax, sales tax, corporate tax, property tax and unemployment tax into account and applies the same standards to each state. These are the taxes that affect all of us.

message 34: by Shannon (new)

Shannon (shaeon) Sandi wrote: "Jeff brings up a good point. We really need to be using our libraries. The library in my city is a tiny branch of the really crappy county library system. Because I couldn't find books I wanted ..."

I hear you, Sandi. I paid for membership to my library of choice as well. We have a county system and I moved out of that county a few years ago. The county that I am in has a terrible library system. I live very close to the county line, and my favorite library is pretty close by, so I paid the annual membership fee. I figure it's cheaper than my Netflix subscription, and also more important to me. I'm also working on a big reading list right now, so this membership basically saves me money.

While that library branch is successful, however, the county system that it is a part of is struggling. They used to give you a free membership no matter where you live in the state, but a tax cut required them to start charging people from outside of their county. In a lot of places, libraries are really hurting.

message 35: by Eric (new)

Eric | 7 comments Just wanted to point out this editorial that appeared in the NYT:

message 36: by Peter (last edited Feb 04, 2011 08:47AM) (new)

Peter Hansen (ptrhansen) | 58 comments Luckily the library system in my city (Brampton, Ontario, Canada) is doing alright. The branch library in my area just got a major overhaul (closed for over a year) and I just saw an article in the local paper that the library use in the city was the highest use ever in 2010 with the ability to rent other media (dvds) and offering digital downloads (Overdrive) listed as a couple of the reasons. Hopefully the high use by the residents will keep the funding up.

message 37: by Boots (new)

Boots (rubberboots) | 499 comments Peter wrote: "Luckily the library system in my city (Brampton, Ontario, Canada) is doing alright. The branch library in my area just got a major overhaul (closed for over a year) and I just saw an article in the..."

I'm in Mississauga and my local branch is also being renovated. It was supposed to be finished last November, now it's not going to be ready until March, but it looks like it's going to be nice though. On the cities website it says that it's costing $4 Million, I'm hoping for that much we get a café.

Also I'm not sure but I think Canadian librarys get funding based on how much they are used or how many withdraws there are per year. I don't know if that's different from other places but it sounds like some areas are donation based?

message 38: by Hilary (new)

Hilary A (hilh) | 40 comments Eric wrote: "Just wanted to point out this editorial that appeared in the NYT:"

here is the link to his speech :)

message 39: by Bill (new)

Bill | 116 comments Alan Moore did a great endorsement of libraries in this video:

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

I love our local libraries. We go at least once a week, often twice. My daughters loves story time and the summer programs. We're lucky. Here in Knox county in Tennessee, they've actually EXPANDED library hours, adding an extra day a week to many branches, and we've just started an ebook lending program, despite companies like HarperCollins (a whole other issue). So we're lucky.

And for the record, we moved down south (TN) from up north (MI), and the libraries here are far superior to the libraries I grew up with. I keep saying to my wife, "Can you believe they have that?" Up north, it was "I can't believe they don't have that!"

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