Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Little Sad, A Lot Angry

The meeting I went to last night at my library was a real downer. The politicians and years of no library advocacy have left the city's library system in a financial mess. So bad of a mess that if people don't get it together by the end of the year, libraries will be closing. This in spite of the beautiful new library that will open downtown in May. Five members of the library board attended the meeting and all of them were newer to the board and all of them were very sorry but eager to do something. But I didn't get the feeling they were anywhere near having a plan. The politicians made an appearance too, stressing they had to choose between libraries and police. But before anyone could challenge them on it, they zoomed out the door "gotta go, late for another meeting." The library meeting was scheduled a month ago so what the politicians hoped would come across as "I think this is so important I made time in my busy schedule to stop by," landed with a thud. Because in reality, they care so little about it that they couldn't make time in their schedule to properly attend the meeting. Some people made suggestions like finding six traffic lights in the city (each light controlled intersection costs $100,000 a year to run) and turning them into four-way stops instead, then using the savings for the libraries. Someone else suggested that people don't appreciate things that are free and maybe we should start charging people five cents to check out a book. Another person suggested charging for the use of library computers. Yikes! I could go along with the traffic light removal suggestion but charging people to use the library? No way. What really needs to happen is the library board and the Friends of Minneapolis Public Library need to communicate a sense of urgency about the situation not only to library patrons but to everyone in the city. Until last night I had no idea how bad the situation is and I use the library regularly and pay attention to city goings on. I've have so many happy library memories, I've read so many books in which the public library made a difference is someone's life, and then there are stories like Ella's trip to the library with Baby. It makes me sad to think about the possibility of one single person losing the opportunity of what the library has to offer because their neighborhood branch was closed due to lack of funding. I'm getting involved to save my library and all the other neighborhood libraries. I have no idea about how to get politicians to allocate money, but I'm starting with letters. Anyone else out there have library budget problems? And if so, what is your library doing about it? We need ideas that are long term and practical so branches don't have to close and people aren't charged five cents to check out a book.