Libraries are critical sources of information for their communities. They provide historical and current information for students, civic leaders and citizens alike, archiving our past and giving us the tools to prepare for the future.
The need for budget cuts is obvious and real. However, but cutting resources that support the sharing of common information, we create hardship. We'll pay one way or the other, whether it's through additional outlays of money to buy those things we previously relied on the library to provide or in lowered educational standards in our communities.
In fact, libraries have never been more important to support than in tough economic times. Unemployed residents are likely to chop Internet access as one of the first items (you know, before food, rent and utilities), so they need access to library-provided Web access to search for jobs and perhaps to file unemployment.
When libraries called for the help of residents in pleading their case to the governor, they received great support. Thousands of letters and e-mails made their way to state representatives.
Locally, Rep. Thomas Letson said library cuts were unavoidable because there was no place else to take the money from. 'Should it come from the Ohio Department of Health? Or the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections?' the Vindicator reported.
So, the Department of Health has no extraneous programs? And there are no changes to the laws and policies surrounding how many people we incarcerate? Of course no one would advocate the release of violent criminals, but what about the number of non-violent folks currently incarcerated because they were found with drugs or a prostitute? Surely this is a time to take a close look at policies across the board.
Letson does make a good point, though: in order to restore library funding, it has to come from somewhere else. But the one thing I didn't see in the e-mails I got to petition Columbus for the libraries' future was a suggestion of where the money should come from. I've heard of folks who have written to the governor asking him to raise taxes to support the libraries.
Either way we've got to find the money, because it will be detrimental to our future to lose library services when we need them the most.