Library stimulus request is not a bailout

Dear Tom Jackson, when economic times get hard, people use libraries more, not less. ALA’s request for stimulus money from Congress at a time when “73 percent of all libraries nationwide provide the only free Internet access in their communities” is not at all the same as bailing out the big three US auto manufacturers. It would be great if we could unite as a country and set priorities so that, yes, urgent medical care for children was possibly higher on Congress’s “what to fund” list than library’s electric bills but our economy doesn’t work that way. Access to good information is as important, if not more important, than it was six months ago and libraries provide critical services for these tough times. Sincerely, a rural librarian [thanks nicolette]

5 thoughts on “Library stimulus request is not a bailout

  1. I concur. I understand that when big corporations fall, they tend to drag more than just themselves down along with them and there is some need to keep those organizations stable, but when massive layoffs are happening every week, the last thing local governments should be doing is cutting back on public services and, especially, access to information.

    Most people understand (Tom Jackson included it seems) that libraries help citizens to gain access to employment services. But there is also something to be said about just knowing that others are in the same boat and being able to learn how they are coping… something reassuring (which can go a long way when you’ve been searching for a job for almost 13 months, interviewed numerous times, and always been told “we’d like to hire you but we have a hiring freeze” as keeps happening to one of my friends).

    Though we haven’t quite reached Great Depression proportions, if it does come to that, free access to the internet would provide a (free) digital space in which people could learn about what others are doing (financially, mentally, etc) to make it through. As information professionals, librarians are strategically placed to help users navigate those spaces more effectively. We have to make sure we protect and maintain those open spaces where people can meet to discuss, discover and play with ideas. Turning off the lights in the library will keep millions of citizens in the dark.

  2. Jessamyn,

    I think this AL post is compatible!:

    Only businesses get bailed out…

    “Justice is a denial of mercy, and mercy is a denial of justice. Only a higher force can reconcile these opposites: wisdom. The problem cannot be solved, but wisdom can transcend it. Similarly, societies need stability and change, tradition and innovation, *public interest and private interest*, planning and laissez-faire, order and freedom, growth and decay. Everywhere society’s health depends on the simultaneous pursuit of mutually opposed activities or aims. The adoption of a final solution means a kind of death sentence for man’s humanity and spells either cruelty or dissolution, generally both… Divergent problems offend the logical mind.”

    Schumacher, E. F. A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Harper & Row, 1977, 127.

  3. The only thing really disturbing about the ALA “bailout” request is how poorly it has been executed. If I recall correctly, on the same day ALA asked for this money the governors of NY and NJ (maybe more) were in DC asking for federal money to prop up severely distressed state budgets. Why wasn’t an ALA rep at the same press conference? Where is the coalition lobbying work?
    As a former policy advocacy professional and now library school student, I find this distressing. If the only media attention ALA can get for their (pitifully small) $100 million request is a sarcastic mention from Sandusky, why bother? And their press release is terrible. Clearly they need to learn some public policy advocacy basics.

  4. It makes sense that when money is tight (and at any other time actually) you put it where you get the most return. Public libraries have proven time and again to be one of the best investments governments can make. A 2007 study conducted by a Seattle-based research firm found that every $1.00 the city of San Francisco spent on their public library system generated a return of $3.34.

    I don’t know any stocks that produce a return of more than 300%.

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