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January 27, 2009

Support for libraries

It is unfortunate to see such respectable institutions as libraries faced with budget shortfalls and forced into making choices that could affect patron services (1/21, Local, “KC library faces severe cuts”).

Budget shortfalls are often a result of problem legislation and ill-informed decision making. Each year lawmakers fill bills that threaten the livelihood and role that Missouri libraries play in every community. Whether it’s an issue related to tax abatements or assessments, tax increment financing or immigration, libraries are affected.

Now is the time for all Missourians to advocate for libraries. On Feb. 10, the Missouri Library Association will be sponsoring our annual Missouri Library Advocacy Day in Jefferson City. These advocacy efforts help to inform and educate lawmakers about the value of libraries. The public is welcome to join the association as we walk the halls of the state Capitol and meet with lawmakers to stress the importance of library issues.

Libraries serve as the cornerstones of communities. It is crucial to their survival that we advocate. More information can be found at www.molib.org/legislative/day.html

Kimberlee N. Ried
President, Missouri Library Association
Kansas City

Comments

solomon

Gary,

I knew from your post you love the library as I do. I also don't mind if you say "bums", rather than homeless. Its your preference and I've read enough of your posts to understand you'd voice it the way you did. Makes them easier to judge without knowing them.

When I was in NYC last summer I took the A train to Ground Zero, then walked to Times Square. I stopped a number of times along the way to talk to people, some of them homeless and one man getting out of a Bentley Continental. I was drained after such a long walk yet cosmopolitan experience.

The other thing you mentioned, the smell, just don't hug them Gary, and it won't rub off on you.

Gary

Solomon: Yes, I have probably averaged 3 library visits per month for 25+ years. I was there most recently a week ago last Saturday. I'd estimate that at least one of every four people at the library that day were bums (call them homeless persons if you want, but I will use my own term). As I was cruising the stacks, I came upon two pairs of bums who were talking loudly to each other - they were no more than 3 feet away from each other but spoke as if they were 10 feet or more. If you can't tell at a glance whether someone at the library is a bum, watch to see whether they make any effort to read the book or magazine that is in front of them. Unfortunately, there's also the smell test. The new library is better than the old one in bum control, but they are still a problem.

Marctnts

Solomon,

Agreed. I was speaking to budget cuts, not wholesale closures in most cases.

The more I think about it, I think it was the tone of the letter that got to me more than anything. The guy talks about "tax abatements or assessments, tax increment financing or immigration" as if library funding should be the biggest consideration in these matters, and he seems "put out" that the these issues are considered without the Missouri Library Association's input.

Or maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, who knows....

solomon

Marctnts,

I also see "cuts" as needed, but not closings. Closing a library is abandoning a community of people with goals and aspirations.

Marctnts

Solomon,

To answer your question, I am not a frequent library visitor. Perhaps if I were I would find them more essential.

Either way, I still can't see why they should be exempted from budget cuts any more than any other social service.

Casady

Hey Marc et al:

I guess I see libraries as a social service as well. In the digital age, it provides a place for those who may have the means to equip themselves with the latest Mac and 20M broadband connection to use public resouces to access on line job banks, research companies for potential employment, etc. In that regard, I consider them just as essential as any other social service. While I am not saying they should not be subject to cuts, I don't think they should be targeted any more than any other social service.

And Gary, I have to go with Sol on this one, my son and I frequent both the Downtown and Plaza libraries quite a bit. While I have seen homeless people in there, I have never seen them be disruptive. You must have caught them on a bad night. I can see how that would be irritating though.

Speaking of which, this is sort of amusing. I recently went by the Boulder, CO library. As some of you may know, Boulder is the epicenter of ultra liberalism and there are many homeless wandering around there. However I noticed that, in the city library, there weren't any couches or comfortable seating. I guess deep down, even the Boulder public library goes out of their way to keep the homeless from feeling, well, at home.

solomon

Good morning Gary,

I have yet to encounter a collection of "homeless" people trying to stay warm at the new downtown library, in fact there was much discussion when it was planned and opened that it was not a place convenient for them to hang out. At the old downtown library they did show up regularly, but I can't recall them being disruptive, they sat at the tables and read.

marctnts,

I understand your point completely. My view is because I go to libraries regularly. Not an attack, just a question, are you a regular visitor to libraries (2-4 times a month)?

Gary

Tina, I have long (25 years +) been a habitue of the KCMO downtown library. Most patrons speak in whispers. However, on very cold and very hot days, bums gather there, and they can be loud and disruptive, not to mention exceptionally stinky. Still, most of the time it is a very soothing atmosphere, especially the reading room on the third floor.

Marctnts

"...they are the outposts of learning for the people in every neighborhood ..."

Sure, but appropriate police protection and the provision of necessary social services (just two examples) are just as important. It's awfully hard to learn if your afraid for your life or don't know where your next meal may come from.

Here's what I see. Cutbacks are occurring everywhere, but there seems to be an attempt to capitalize on the romantic notion of libraries in order to spare them from the same fate that other entities are suffering. Even you indicated such a romanticized notion in your post about what libraries mean to you.

Libraries are great, and yeah, they represent the quest for learning. I guess I just don't see them as the only hope or especially deserving of special consideration to the detriment of other necessary services during these lean times.

solomon

TinaMcG,

You owe it to yourself to go. I haven't been to one I consider a zoo atmosphere. I go online and browse the categories and topics and go to where the books are, whether it be the Plaza, Downtown, Bluford or any branch the people are all there for a common purpose.

TinaMcG

I haven't visited a library in Kansas yet, so someone please answer this question. Are Kansas and Missouri libraries any quieter than the Kansas Speedway on NASCAR weekend?

I quit going to our library in Illinois because it was such a zoo that no one could possibly concentrate on what they were reading. I worked in a public library all through high school in the Sixties, and even *I* got into the habit of shutting up while I was there. If I could do it, anyone can.

solomon

Good morning Marctnts,

As a lifetime lover of the libraries, they are the outposts of learning for the people in every neighborhood that become our best chance for the future. I know that sounds gushy, but as we see articles about zip codes of death and terrible school districts, the libraries are full of the people who care and try.

You make a valid point about cutbacks everywhere, but this is more important than "reading and everything".

Marctnts

Most state programs are facing cuts right now, why should the local book depository be any different.

Yeah, yeah, I get the importance of reading and everything, but I'd guess people see police protection and social services as important as well. Why should libraries be any different?

solomon

It will be interesting to see which and where the TBA closures will occur.

 
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