around the country packed a ballroom a few weeks ago in Philadelphia
to drum up support for libraries faced with accelerating budget cuts.
As ALA President Mitch
Freedman explained: "We are competing for money with programs ranging
from basic service to combating terrorism, but libraries are fundamental
to democracy and communities
We must join together to fight to
save America's libraries!"
The highlight of
the rally came when librarians from various parts of the country stood
up and shared what was happening in their institutions. Each of them
then went to share the stage with the ALA president and to mark a map
of the United States with a red "X" on the states where they
were from. A librarian from the State University of West Georgia explained
that their former governor cut the libraries budget by 50% last year,
with more cuts expected. These cuts are occurring at a time when students
"flock back to school" as a result of the downturn in the
A librarian from
Broward County Library in Florida announced that this past month their
legislature proposed disbanding the state library in Florida. The results
of this would mean cutting two thirds of the state library staff. One
million books in the collection would no longer be available, which
includes a nationally known photograph collection. Additionally, summer
reading materials for K-12 children would be eliminated.
of the Public Library Association
reminded the audience of Arthur Schlesinger's statement that libraries
were a "vital instrument of opportunity in the United States."
In her home state of Georgia, patrons were using the libraries to find
jobs. But because of a declining tax base, and a seven percent decrease
in state aid, the public libraries have been forced to take drastic
action. They've cut back hours by two days a week, implemented a hiring
freeze, and adopted a policy of purchasing no new books this year.
A librarian who
represented the American
Association of School Libraries stated that in her home state of
South Carolina, the "school doors to learning libraries are slamming
shut." In that state the average age of books in the school libraries
date from 1981, over 20 years old. A librarian from Philadelphia Public
Schools also told of out of date books and technologies, and of zero
money this year for librarians in elementary schools. She shared that
her administrator, who is reportedly pro-libraries, told them they might
be able to figure out a way to provide library service using books on
The director of
the Queens Borough Public Library in New York related that his system
has sustained 20 percent in budget cuts since 9/11. Last year, 100 librarians
were laid off with 100 more layoffs required by this July, and there's
more of the same on the way for next year. He admonished the crowd to
not allow legislators to "forsake a generation of these kids."
of the Association of College
and Research Libraries told the crowd that her home state of Missouri
is "second in the nation for state budget cuts in higher education."
To highlight the potential for disaster this presents, she produced
a quote from Mark Twain: "Every time you stop a school, you're
going to have to build a jail."
Carla Hayden gave a stirring speech, to thunderous applause, filled
with strategies and reminders of the duties we hold as librarians. "You
must get to know new legislators and reacquaint yourselves with others.
Schedule regular visits to remind them that libraries matter
We have a right to mobilize; we don't have to be quiet anymore! We have
to make sure America's libraries survive and thrive. It's in your job