Monday, January 31, 2011

Help Save the Libraries!

Once upon a time, a famous library advocate (if memory serves me correctly, it was Benjamin Franklin) was quoted as saying "You can judge a community by its libraries" or something to that effect.  Author Mark Twain made similar comments.  Their observations are as relevant today as they were when they made them centuries ago.  So, if this is the case, then the United States in general and the State of TX in particular are guilty of gross negligence!  In a time when reading and technology skills are critical, TX has seen fit to put all libraries and their staffs on the chopping block.  Shame on you!

Here are just a few examples of what has come to pass and what is looming in the near future for TX libraries.  The proposed state budget calls for eliminating Loan Star Libraries (direct aid grants to public libraries), all state funding for TexShare databases, the K-12 Database program, and more.  Last school year, the Plano ISD eliminated all library assistants (while keeping the 10+ football coaches at each of the high schools).  The Austin Independent School District (Austin is home to the University of TX, by the way) is planning to eliminate all middle and high school libraries/librarians in the upcoming school year.  Here is an excellent article from an Austin ISD Middle School librarian outlining their plight - Stevenson: Why librarians are essential

Although there are some state legislators who advocate for libraries, their numbers are few.  One who will be voting to retain the current library funding is Rep. Rafael Anchia.  His full article in the Dallas Morning News is here - Rafael Anchia: How the local library helped shape my path to Austin   - and here is a brief excerpt...

Yet in 2009, the last year for which figures are available, the state provided an average of only 24 cents per person in public library support. The national average was $3.35. Texas ranks a sad 48th in state funding for this precious resource. With proposed budget cuts decimating essential library programs, we are headed on a path that will greatly harm generations of future Texans.

I have worked in both school and public libraries in many regions of the US and have seen first-hand the slow hemorrhaging of critical funding to libraries; however, TX is at the top of the list in its lack of support.  Texans are proud for being "bigger" at everything, but they should be ashamed to be the biggest destroyer of libraries.  If we can, in fact, judge the Texas community by its libraries, then it will be found guilty for its ignorance and shortsightedness.  Is this really the legacy our legislators want to leave?

If you care as much as I (and my fellow librarians) do, then please visit the TX Library Association website and voice your opposition to these proposed cuts.  Our school and public libraries are one of the few bastions of democracy, especially as the divide between rich and poor widens.  If we don't have fully-funded libraries and well-educated librarians on staff, the poorest among us will be denied equal access to information and technology essential for competing successfully in our global society.  Please, vote "yes" for our libraries, vote "yes" for our kids' future!  Click here - Texas Library Association - Save Library Programs.  Thank you for your support!

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