Tuesday, November 1, 2016

An Ode to the Value of Libraries

COMMENTARY: An ode to the value of libraries
Bernardsville News: 10.28.2016 by Linda Stamato

The Morristown and Morris Township Public Library is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its Willis Wing this year, a celebration that offers another opportunity to attest to the value of public libraries and to acknowledge my own, very special, public library’s place among the nation’s valued collection.

The building on South Street builds on a tradition that started soon after the Revolutionary War. In the years since, it has faced many challenges—not least, fires and construction failures—and, depending upon the vagaries of the age, others as well.

Now, free public libraries--and free access to books and all that libraries provide to our communities--are endangered, for, in nearly every state they are experiencing budget cuts.

Where property revaluations have reduced the tax base in many municipalities, local support to public libraries has declined.

Many libraries across the country have reduced hours and services; others have sold off books. Some libraries have merged; others, in desperation--or, joining the anti-government services crowd--have privatized. Still others are contemplating a fee-based approach to meet their bottom-line challenges.

Two years ago, the American Library Association issued a task force report called “Keeping Public Libraries Public.”   It’s well worth a read.

In the press to find resources, local governments have turned to privatizing their public libraries. Privatizing!  A company based in Maryland, for example, Library Systems and Services, has taken over public libraries in ailing cities in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas, becoming the country’s fifth-largest library system.

And, lately, the company has moved to take over libraries in cities that are not financially stressed, in some cases to save funds (and to terminate union contracts).  Not without strong community resistance.

The Public Interest Research Group in California, too, has stood up to and blocked a number of schemes to sell public assets to private companies — deals that all too often actually raise costs — including public libraries and state buildings.

These are disturbing trends.  READ MORE @

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