Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Libraries Are an Essential Service, Too

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Libraries Are an Essential Service, Too

Article excerpt

The Lancaster County (PA) Library traces its roots back to 1759, when 54 local residents anted up three guineas each and began buying books. Ben Franklin himself marveled at their initiative, and among the first directors was George Ross, who later would sign the Declaration of Independence.

For nearly 250 years this library and its antecedents have afforded patrons, regardless of economic circumstance, a mind-boggling collection of materials representing 50 centuries of human thought. Plato and Santayana, Shakespeare and Hemingway, Bacon and Darwin stand shoulder to shoulder on its shelves. The library is also a place to learn English, look for a job, read to children, do a term paper, or simply oil a squeaky day.

But this tradition has been shrinking steadily in recent years. Needed building maintenance has been put off, reserve funds have been tapped, and worst of all, book purchases have been canceled. Even this hasn't been enough to steer clear of the fiscal shoals; as of last month, the library and its three branches are open 60 fewer hours every week. In addition, 22 part-time positions were eliminated.

Although most librarians say the word "fee" as though it soils their lips, we are already in the era of the not-quite-so-free public library. Fees for video rentals, photocopying and book reserves are a source of income for many libraries, and more and more of them are charging for online database searching. But these cover a small fraction of overall expenses, and fiscal anemia is taking its toll in the form of shortened hours, reduced staff, curtailed book-buying, canceled magazine subscriptions, delayed major renovations and repairs, long lines at checkouts and computer terminals, bookmobiles parked indefinitely, and telephone queries deferred by answering machines. And, increasingly, shuttered libraries.

Libraries are an afterthought for government budgetmakers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.