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A Philadelphia Story

As reported right here in the Library Journal (boy, that sounds strange to me), the Philadelphia library system will be closing 11 of 54 branches and fire 111 people (or rather "111 positions will be lost"). I didn’t actually read about it in the Library Journal, because I seldom read LJ, but one of my commenters last week mentioned it, and I followed up. That’s the sort of library journalist I am.

That’s a lot of closings, and I wanted to know what was really going on. Sure, the mayor claimed it had something to do with a recession, but that might just be a nutty idea. Other cities are having recessions and they’re not closing up so many libraries, so I suspected a conspiracy against libraries here. Because it’s my duty as an impartial library journalist to bring the truth to light for the delectation of the huddled librarian masses yearning to breathe free – i.e., you – I covered up my superhero outfit with a tasteful business suit, donned some glasses to complete the disguise, and set off to Philly in search of the mayor. Then I realized with modern communication technology being what it is, I didn’t actually have to go to Philadelphia and just called instead. The transcript is below:

AL: I’m trying to find out the real reason why you’re closing all these libraries. I just don’t buy that "recession" argument. It sounds nutty to me.

Mayor: [groan.] Very funny. I’ve never heard that one before. We absolutely had to close something. There’s no money! And some libraries aren’t doing well.

AL: Why did you choose these particular branches? I bet you’re not closing the library that you use.

Mayor: But I use the main branch downtown!

AL: Isn’t "main branch" an oxymoron?

Mayor: I wouldn’t know about that. I’m not a librarian. We used several criteria to decide which branches to close. We closed the ones that weren’t doing what libraries should be doing.

AL: What? Like providing books and access to information and maybe some storytimes?

Mayor: No, the libraries were all doing that. But do you know how many of those libraries had a blog where the director gave the community the inside scoop on all the tedious activities necessary to run a library?

AL: I can make a guess: none.

Mayor: That’s a good guess. You’re exactly right. How many of the librarians there were using Twitter to communicate their every movement – bowel and otherwise – to the ever curious public?

AL: Four?

Mayor: None! But how many of them do you think had little signs up asking people to silence their cellphones?

AL: I give up.

Mayor: All of them! You can see what a heartless disservice these libraries were doing to their customers. The folks in these libraries hate their customers. It’s obvious. The "signs" are all there, so to speak. [chuckling in background.]

AL: You’re a fan of that blog where the guy’s always posting photos of cell phone signs and himself and everything, aren’t you?

Mayor: I love that guy!

AL: I thought so.

Mayor: How many of those libraries were run like businesses, do you think? None!

AL: But are the other ones run like businesses? What does that even mean?

Mayor: You’re distracting me. I’m on a roll. A few more things you might be interested in. Nobody at those libraries was teaching old people how to upload videos onto Youtube.

AL: The horror!

Mayor: But that’s not the worst of it. The libraries weren’t offering anything their customers really wanted.

AL: So none of their "customers" wanted books and stuff?

Mayor: I have no idea. I just know that if libraries are going to survive in the perilous future, they’re going to need to adapt to the changing needs of the culture.

AL: That sounds like a lot of empty verbiage to me. What does it mean in practice?

Mayor: They need more video games! I toured all those branches myself.

AL: Were they busy?

Mayor: Sure, they were busy, but absolutely no one was playing Guitar Hero, and I found meeting room after meeting room without a jubilant game of Dance Dance Revolution going on!

AL: Do you actually know what Dance Dance Revolution is?

Mayor: I have no idea, but I’ve been assured by top library bloggers that these things are important.

AL: Who specifically?

Mayor: Top…library…bloggers.

AL: You mean, like the Annoyed Librarian?

Mayor: No, I’ve been told not to read that one.

AL: Just curious. Thank you very much for your time.

Mayor: You’re welcome. Say, you couldn’t spare a few bucks, could you?

At that point I ended the call. What could I make of that? It seemed like the twopointopians and the gamey librarians were right after all. Libraries that don’t have blogs and DDR parties are doomed to distinction. It’s sad to think that if these branches had just followed the advice of "top library bloggers," they wouldn’t be closing. I stand corrected. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll call the mayor of San Diego.

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Comments

  1. Phillie Phanatic says:

    As I said in an earlier thread,
    Who cares about library closings. . .


    THE PHILLIES WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!!!!!!!!

    Nothing else really matters in the long run.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Every overpaid member of the Phillies should adopt one of the branches being closed and guarantee to give it $1 million a year. The players won’t notice the money – it is pocket-change to them- and it will help the people in the city.

  3. htmldude says:

    I have a feeling Comedy Central won’t be calling anytime soon to offer you a job as a comedy writer. Don’t quit your day job.

  4. effinglibrarian says:

    AL: “Mayor: Top…library…bloggers.”
    so where is that line from, I thought. and I had to search to find it’s from Raiders of the Lost Ark:
    “We have top men working on it now.”
    Who?
    “Top… Men.”
    so at least you stole from the best and not from Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo

  5. Mike Schmidt says:

    The Players are underpaid if anything. More libraries should be closed to boost their salaries.

  6. AL says:

    Awww, htmldude, you’re hurting my feelings. Besides, I don’t need Comedy Central, I’ve got LJ paying me to write this stuff.

  7. Brent says:

    I guess, intuitively, during recessions, libraries get more usage. Naturally it is time to close libraries…

  8. DoaLD says:

    Wow, way to belittle a city-wide crisis that has far-reaching implications for many underserved populations in my city. The 11 branches being closed is tragic, so are the closing of vastly more city pools that provide safe recreation for city youth and the reduction of emergency services. Did you even read the entire story? I’m as sorry as anyone in this city to see these branches shut down, especially because many of them are in areas of the city where the local population needed them for many of the social services they provide beyond books. Perhaps instead of writing this drivel, you could have written an article in support of the many city residents who will be adversely affected, or examined the difficult decisions that the mayor and librarians faced in keeping the system as viable as possible.

    – Daughter of a Library Director

  9. Pete Rose says:

    Maybe, instead of just playing games, the Phillies can offer bibliographic help to the poor. It would be tit for tat seeing as how most libraries now just offer entertainment to their constituents.

  10. Bud Selig says:

    Keeping with the baseball theme:

    Belittling people losing their jobs – strike one.

    Belittling the loss of library services to a community – strike two.

    Inability to be funny – strike three.

    Time to be send this post down to the minor leagues.

  11. Bowie Kuhn says:

    Great comments from someone who doesn’t have enough sense to come in from the rain.

  12. Morse says:

    I think the claiming this is “belittling people losing jobs” might be missing a point. A lot of library writers talk about how libraries are in trouble, need to change, etc. What do they come up with? Video games, blogs, cell phone signs, etc. Part of the point here might be that all these bloggers who complain about libraries are just talking about meaningless fluff when libraries in some places really are in jeopardy.

  13. jmo, mls says:

    Please to be reminding me again which party has run Philadelphia for decades? It was Sarah Palin, wasn’t it?

    Thanks, that’s what I thought.

  14. Alaska Hottie says:

    I’ve never even been to Philadelphia!

  15. martin says:

    For those who wish to focus on the facts of the story rather than this sideways glance, it is perhaps worth noting that the LJ story up since 6 Nov has a grand total of 0 comments and AL’s up since 10 Nov has 13.

  16. tomhanks says:

    I thought the month was supposed to go first – November 6 instead of 6 November.

  17. effinglibrarian says:

    LJ story: 0 comments.
    AL rant: 14 comments.
    Take that, serious journalism!
    (isn’t the AL blog a micro-representation of any group dynamic–someone should apply for a grant to study the comments and make some conclusion about something…)

  18. Steve Carlton says:

    LJ story — Log on to snark

    AL rant — Can comment anonymously until the CUBS win a World Series.


    Now go flake off

  19. Boog Powell says:

    The mayor’s last name is Nutter? No wonder they’re having problems.

  20. H says:

    “The mayor’s last name is Nutter? No wonder they’re having problems.”

    Why? Is Nutter some sort of Muslim name?

  21. Mr. Kat says:

    I may not personally agree entirely with how public libraries operate, but I have never been one of the critics to say “well, then shut them all down.” Rather, I have been worried that something like this might happen; the other phase might be something like degrading the job requirements to a High school diploma and lowering the pay and benefits accordingly. For once the city officials learn HSD candidates can fulfill the same roles, we MLS holders are doomed.

    effinglibrarian, I thought about your proposed study a couple weeks ago; I then went and reviewed the other blogs at LJ, foolishly thinking that the AL’s comment success might be common for other blogs at LJ. I’m pretty certain I heard crickets chirping out there and concluded that no study is necessary to make any statistically meaningful conclusions. This is the popular blog, and I am left without a doubt why LJ might have contracted AL to work for them. AL is that series of Pulp Fiction that the entire city reads and raves or riles about. It all comes down to Circulation, and AL has it.

    11 buildings throughout Philadelphia are now available for city redevelopment….too bad real estate prices are in the slump, or the city could make big bucks selling them off. And that’s 11 to 111 librarian positions that are now gone. HEY ALA, WHAT ABOUT THAT SHORTAGE???

  22. soren faust says:

    jmo, you have a one track mind. According to you, the reason my car broke down yesterday would be because Obama won the election. Philadelphia is not the only city having economic troubles. Besides, you hate public libraries so much, I would have thought that you’d be happy about 11 less PLs.

  23. A Friend of Bill W says:

    Actually it is a good idea from time to time to challenge ALL public institutions and to have them justify themselves.

    If your organization, branch, etc, is actually providing a valuable public service, even if it is losing money, but you can justify the expense — by all means keep your doors open.

    On the other hand, if your only reason for being is to be a place where the po’ kids can come play xBox, then back up the trucks and sell of the furnishings.

  24. Never Sunny in Philadelphia says:

    Phillie Phanatic you are one ignorant a**hole. The closing of even on branch library has far dire consequences on the people of Philadelphia than a steriod induced championship that will be forgotten next year. Go smoke a cigar and take a bath you dumb, fat bas***d.

    Any, by the way, stop chucking snowballs at Santa Clause.

  25. Phillie Phanatic says:

    Gorsh, if you look at home many cities are using public financing to build stadiums and how many are cutting back services to libraries, you can really see who makes a better case for themselves.

    Ohhhhh wooooo, they are cutting our libraries, we had better have a committee meeting and call the AULA (Absolutely Useless Library Association) and maybe we can come up with a strongly written letter to the editor to the paper.

  26. Mithrandir says:

    Phillie Phanatic is just part of the “dumbing down of America”. He can’t help it, he hasn’t got the intelligence to see the stupidity of his own comments. Ironically, he can benefit from using a library.

  27. Phillie Phanatic says:

    I use my library a lot.

    They have the coolest games and easy reader books for when I get bored.

    If they put in beer and hot dogs concessions, I think they would win over a lot more of the citizens and not just edumcated peoples likes me.

  28. penn girl says:

    Plus it’s a good place to go to the bathroom when you’re downtown shopping.

    No one seems to be addressing the larger issue – where are the homeless going to hang out when the PL branches are closed?

  29. KM Landis says:

    Once the mission of the public library was pretty clear — to allow self-education for a country of individuals. Providing a shared collection of non-fiction information was seen as a benefit to society – creating a prosperous and educated voting public. The country has changed — self-education and being an individual are not important anymore — statistics and population segments are the important thing.

    Now that everything is on the internet and books are boring, the library has no purpose beyond entertainment and amusement. We have schools for group education and fine government programs to dispense all the information we really need. In the coming days it will be apparent that supporting individuals and their self-education needs is harmful to the creation of a fair and equal society; it’s disruptive to the common good.

  30. Lenny Dykstra says:

    “self-education and being an individual are not important anymore”

    These things are more important now than ever and help to explain why libraries are less relevant than in the past.

  31. carptrash says:

    Reminds me of the time not too long ago when Detroit (and Philly, probably too) started closing down it’s churches. Fraught with with significance and symbolism, to be sure, but in the words of that great American (German?) Artie Johnson, “But vhat does it mean?”
    eeeeeeeeek

  32. CharlesManson says:

    I heard Artie Johnson was doing it with both Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzi – at the same time!

  33. anonymous says:

    re: LJ story: 0 comments.
    AL rant: 14 comments.<<

    Rated for quality, coherence and relevance, LJ is still ahead.

  34. Mithrandir says:

    Lenny Dykstra commented:

    “self-education and being an individual are not important anymore”

    These things are more important now than ever and help to explain why libraries are less relevant than in the past.

    Lenny me man, you took one too many dives into the wall. You make no sense.

  35. Mr. Kat says:

    [the short version; the long version was five paragraphs, but these two cut to the chase.]

    Mithandir, I understand what Lenny is saying: self education and individuality could be used to explain the fall of the library in society. When people are self-educated and self-richeous, they don’t need some stupid library telling them they learned it all wrong or how the library way of getting knowledge is better – even if the book has better credible sources, it is neither efficient to use nor easy to send to your friends in Bruge, Statton Island, Odessa, Red Deer, Oahu, and Okinawa for instant discussion. When it comes to business, our youth wants their information in a text searchable PDF, and if they really need the information, they want the information already partially digested so they don’t have to waste time trying to understand it. When it comes to pleasure, our youth will buy whatever book or CD or DVD that appeals to them – why check it out for two weeks???

    Libraries have been holding this day off for as long as they could, cutting their own salaries and reducing their own bonuses to show the powers that be they should be saved. Now the economy has finally caught up and the vote is to simply cut the libraries. Perhaps this is the sign of a cultural shift, having far long passed, only today imparting on us what damage it has already done?

  36. Mr. Kat says:

    P.S.

    What good is an article that has higher quality, coherence and relevance if nobody discusses it?

    Without discussion a good coherent article is no better then shouting inside a room where all the walls are completely covered with small square tubes. You can yell and scream as much as you want, but you won’t even be able to hear your own voice.

  37. soren faust says:

    Dear Haters of The Public,

    Come on and say it! you hate people. Shout it on the rooftops, be heard. Don’t cower. Don’t try and couch it in this dubious decrying of how the public library is dumbing down society. How society is lesser now than before. Admit that you feel clean, superior, washed and saved as you denounce the leporous unwashed masses.

    Your condemnation reminds me of an ad that’s on TV right now where a person is characterized as grossed out by the spots left on her wine glasses by that big ole bad Evil dish degergant. Wash away the sins; begone evil spirits.

    Personally, I’d rather run with the devil, anyday.

  38. soren faust says:

    Dear Haters of The Public,

    Come on and say it! you hate people. Shout it on the rooftops, be heard. Don’t cower. Don’t try and couch it in this dubious decrying of how the public library is dumbing down society. How society is lesser now than before. Admit that you feel clean, superior, washed and saved as you denounce the leprous unwashed masses.

    Your condemnation reminds me of an ad that’s on TV right now where a person is characterized as grossed out by the spots left on her wine glasses by that big ole bad Evil dish detergent. Wash away the sins; begone evil spirits.

    Personally, I’d rather run with the devil, any day.

  39. soren faust says:

    PS: and for all you Stormtroppers of Grammatical Death, see second posting for corrections

    Over.

  40. library lily says:

    brilliant…interview. perhaps only funny to (some of) the readers of the AL, but a good send up of the mayor and libraries that think twitter is a priority.

  41. anonymous says:

    re: What good is an article that has higher quality, coherence and relevance if nobody discusses it?<<

    When you actually add anything of substance to the article, we can revisit the question. To most, the answer is obvious on its face. LJ remains ahead on points.

    Are you really sure you want to draw attention to the oppressive cacaphony present in a cave full of noisesome natterers?

  42. Mr. Kat says:

    It might be due to a comment last week by me that we are discussing this very blog today. Without discussion, nobody spreads the word. With no spread, ideas do not move. The knowledge may be here on LJ, but it does not MOVE! Discussion makes movement POSSIBLE! Without patrons, Information is INERT! Think what you may wish about me or my contribution, your contribution only works to make the world ever more silent. HAVEN’T LIBRARIANS HEARD?? The Day of SHHHHHHH is OVER!!!

    Maybe is some librarins in a certain city spoke up more often, MAYBE they wouldn’t be facing a Layoff in a HARD Economy in Philadelphia!!!

  43. Original Anonymous Librarian says:

    “Time to be send this post down to the minor leagues.”
    Puleeez….This attempt at writing ranks with that on East Huron. It’s going downhill AL; you’re losing it. First of all, in many areas of the country they HAVE learned that a warm body with a HSD can be passed off as a librarian with an MLS. This story doesn’t surprise me a bit. I was just reading about how Harvard is getting ready to tighten its belt, and we can guess what that probably means for academic libraries, both there and elsewhere. In the early 90′s libraies that had survived the Great Depression closed in some communities in this state. But it was going on before this, and has been eating away at libraries like a cancer for years. Positions are phased out via attrition, and brought back, often as part time slots for warm bodies. Think of it; what once provided full time employment, with benefits, for say, 5 degreed librarians, are now held by 10-12 people as clueless as Carabou Barbie, that know something about finding info. on the country of Africa, if you need to know. :-/ I’m just waiting for the library version of musical chairs to shuffle and ripple when the tsunami hits the rest of the field as the economy goes downhill.

  44. WebbyGrl says:

    Ruth Buzzi? Gross.
    That is a shame that those branches are closing. I really think you’re on to something if you sell beer and hot dogs. That will bring folks, er…patrons, in and might even create a library funding surplus except that the city will want a major chunk of the cash off those $8 beers.

  45. Dave Concepcion says:

    Beisbol been bery bery good to me.

  46. Mithrandir says:

    Mr Kat,

    Just imagine your community and our society without public libraries. Your utopian view of people self-educating themselves without libraries is a pipe dream. and downright scary. Given the downturn in the economy how many people can still afford to spend $20-40 on a book when it’s FREE at the library?

  47. Library Cynic says:

    I remember a situation in the early 90′s where pink slips were flying. AL, don’t quit your day job, if you have one left after this is over. I mean that both in a REAL library and in what could easily turn into a very short turn in your cushy office, at the rate things are headed. Just listen to the news; 1.2 million jobs gone nationally THUS FAR. Your ATTEMPT at humor is NOT amusing. You COULD potentially be the Annoyed FORMER Librarian. Ponder that. Food stamps are NOT accepted for martini fixings, either.

  48. Mr. Kat says:

    Mithrandir, I said I understand the arguement – that doesn’t mean I agree with it. It makes a great deal of sense though. Maybe we’ll see these type of people come back to the library, but it will take an economy that rubs them into the ground first. We’ll see if it happens. In the meanwhile, libraies have to face this challenge like the rest of us.

  49. Mr. Kat says:

    L-Cynic, the AL has this knack for drawing a crowd. That has been proven. her comedy may be severely lacking, but it still manages to lead to a large number of comments. Heck, she started blog that simply said “there is no blog this week, have a nice one” and THAT blog STILL got more hits then the rest of LJ combined. It’s weird, no?

    Anyhow, your comments are a bit disconcerting. You want us to happily face the guillitione with a smile and a chipper attitude that we are the best happiest librarians in the best happiest public library that ever existed. I’m sorry, but I’m not suicidal or masochistic. My field just happens to be in the wrong hands.

  50. carptrash says:

    “on the country of Africa, ”
    It was kinda fun, and a bit scarry to see this phrase go around and come around.
    20 years ago (carptime) I heard it used by the librarian and head of my kid’s school’s “Gifted and Talented” program. I tried for years to forget it and when I’d finally succeeded, here it is again. Those who forget the past do indeed seem to be condemned to relive it. eeek

  51. WebbyGrl says:

    Do states still use food stamps? Mine has opted for a credit card type of thingy so the balance can’t be given out as change for beer & cigarettes.

    So then what do public libraries do? Or, what did they do or not do to get themselves into this situation? Was it the internet that made information so available that patrons stopped patronizing the PL? Did we dumb-down our students so they have no desire to read but will watch million dollar movies instead? Maybe it happened when schools stopped requiring students to do book reports on required reading.

    Again I mention how odd it is that librarians are Democrats and teachers are Democrats and I find it ironic that they are against each other without really realizing it. “Educators” want federal and state money so they dumb down the students so everyone can pass – and librarians are left wondering why all the kids want to do is play video games. It is so plainly obvious that librarians really should be Republicans like the current First Lady and should do everything in their power to force required reading in schools. Why doesn’t the ALA get on THAT band wagon? Of course then it would be doing something useful and how odd would that be?

    How is it that no one has figured it out that as we have allowed liberal educational practices to ruin the young minds of our nation by allowing them to rise to the level of mush, that libraries have suffered and are dying? When you don’t force students to actually READ a book and then test them on it or make them actually think about what they read by regurgitating the information into their own thoughts, they do not learn a love of literature. If you don’t love literature, then it’s no wonder why PL’s are a thing of the past. This isn’t rocket science.

  52. Jim Rettig says:

    Maybe it’s because public libraries have the same service model that they had 100 years ago. Have our patrons changed in the last 100 years?

  53. carptrash says:

    “librarians really should be Republicans like the current First Lady”
    I see that Laura “the librarian” Bush is looking for a publisher to do her memoirs. That should get the public streaming back to the libraries.

  54. soren faust says:

    Webbygrl, it is not an issue of liberal vs. conservative. Many parts of Europe are profoundly liberal and they don’t seem to be suffering the same educational problems that we (the US) suffer. Come on! it’s too easy to pass the blame on to one group. We (as in all Americans) are culpable. You act as if liberals forceably oppressed the republicans so that they could run the show. I think you need to broaden your views to the many complexities that influence the cultural habits of people. I’m a capitalist, but I also know that there is a negative side to capitalism and part of that negative side is its dumbing down effect on people. Not to mention the anti-intellectualism that runs rampant in this country, particularly in the republican camp. Please don’t act like republicans are stalwarts of virtue and reading when many republicans in the middle of this country are probably close to illiterate and proud of it.

    Break the chains of simplistic thinking. I’m not saying don’t be a republican, but don’t think that librarians should be republicans due to some pie in the sky idea of good and bad. Your starting to sound like the opposite side of the same coin that is the PLG.

  55. anon nun says:

    Don’t buy into the media hype. The American educational system is the best in the world. There is no dumbing down – it only seems that way because only bad news gets reported by the media.

  56. Anonymous says:

    I work in a public library. I spend a lot of time helping people getting undergrad degrees with their assignments. I’ve printed out style guides for them, shown them how to create annotated bibliographies, what are the best electronic resources to use, and how to select credible material. I’ve also suggested that they use their college libraries but for some reason, they all seem reluctant to do so. A few have commented on the unhelpfulness of the librarians in their fine institutions.

    I also help kids with their assignments and teach them basic computer skills. I help recent immigrants who want to learn English find suitable materials. My library is getting busier and the circ is increasing. Yes, people take out frivolous material, but so do I. I doubt that all you academnic librarians spend your spare time reading Kierkegaard while swigging your martinis. We do offer gaming programs for kids, but it does keep them off the streets and out of gangs.

    Closing the 11 branches will be a major disservice to the people of the city. The reason that the US economy tanked was because a large number of completely unprincipled people in the banking and investment industries decided that it was OK to screw over the rest of the country. It would be great if the mayor of Philly could get some corporate funding or private donors to help the libraries but at this point he’s lucky if he can get some corporate funding or private donations for soup kitchens.

    There is a strong tradition of anti-intellectualism in this country but the intellectual elitists are not helping matters. If you want to improve education, stop all the standardized tests (which the Republicans really pushed) and concentrate on teaching kids to think independently and creatively, not just regurgitate crap.

  57. Mr. Kat says:

    If you believe the American Educational System is stil lthe best in the world, it is probably because you are an Education equivalent of a card carrying member of the ALA in Library world. In short, you are unable to see past your rosy rimmed glasses to the reality that is just on the other side of the wall.

    There are a number of public librarians – and educators as well – who are doing wonders with what little instructional and institutional support there is given today. There is hard evidence, however, that students are currently better off in countries elsewhere. Face it, this country is stock full of people with great college degrees who simply cannot get a job. We make people who are obsolete before they even start studying! Or worse, we make people for positions that do not exist – or exist in small microcosms.

    Combine Sorens reasonable and balanced outlook [no one group is to blame; we are all partially fallible] and Webbygrl’s appropriate analysis of the situation [It's true - polarized political pandering is quite active in this country throughout all avenues] an dyou have the recipe behind why no matter what good Anonymous does, She still faces an impending library closure because this country just doesn’t “get” library work anymore.

  58. anon nun says:

    So explain to me why our educational system is not the best in the world, other than your anecdotal stories fueled by media frenzy. Brilliant people are coming out of our educational system everyday, but that doesn’t get any of the media attention. Look past the hype and you’ll find the real story.

  59. Reb says:

    I haven’t read all 58 comments, but most of these are way off base. The Free Library is full of hardworking caring librarians. Each branch and regional library has an active after school program offering homework assistance, opportunities for discussion and, yes, some gaming, and even the occasional film or lecture. These eleven branches offer a safe and nurturing environment for many many children after school. One of the branches slated for closing is about to dedicate a wrap around mural. All of the branches are pleasing and welcoming even in some of the most difficult neighborhoods.

    Mayor Nutter values the library system. The city is in trouble–I hope that another set of solutions surfaces before these closings take place.

  60. Mr. Kat says:

    I only know what I know about the American educaitonal system because I am first a product of it and because second I went back and looked into teaching it. What I discovered is that the knowledge now taught has shrunk ever further from the point where it was when I was in school. I did not know the media hype you refer to until AFTER I finished my three year tour within the educaitonal system. Before that tour I wore your rosy glasses.

    You are fully correct: there ARE bright gems passing from these gates, but I hold to you two well documented and researched problems; First, the standards have been lowered; the exam has been replaced with more subjective measures that can be bent, where fewer standards can be physically tested within an allotted amount of time. Second, students are being passed simply to get them out of one room and into another, or out of school altogther. And getting them out is easy; you simply make the tests a little bit easier, and they all pass! Well researched, studied, and cited in the educational journal literature.

    You only see with your rosy glasses. You do not see the rest of the image – nor do you see the part of the image they are not showing you: just how little actually passes for education these days.

    Reb, I feel your pain. But I have seen hardworking librarins huddled behind desks…playing solitaire. But I don’t think your situation is quite the same. This current “Solution” deeply troubles me. I may not agree with how public libraries are run in every sense, but that does not mean I want to see them closed!

  61. soren faust says:

    anon nun, you must live in a convent. You wouldn’t last a day in my city’s school system. The student’s would chew you up. Remember, our school system used to be the best in the world. It has since then become 2nd rate. The only real options for young students today are private, Catholic, or charter schools. The rest, particularly in the big cities, are a mess. I grew up in a family of teachers and have been around other teachers who have been in the schools system a long time and they all say the same thing: the school system, as a whole, is failing the kids. That’s not media hype, but reality.

  62. anon nun says:

    These are just anecdotes. I could give you just as many stories about the wonderful accomplishments taking place everyday in our education system – but that wouldn’t grab any headlines.

  63. WC Fields says:

    Who cares what they do in Philly?

    This is the city that had a stadium dedicated to the men and women that kept our country free to blog, and replaced it with yet another corporate named edifice.

    On the other hand, maybe libraries should take corporate naming rights money. I, for one, would love to be able to play video games at my local Carnegie/Starbucks Library.

  64. soren faust says:

    anon nun, saying that the education system isn’t what it used to be does not mean that there is 0% of successful individuals coming out the system. It just simply means that, on the whole, the educational system has declined in quality. And, of course, when I say the educational system I mean public schools, not universities or private schools. Btw, why not provide an example of your proof that our educational system, as a whole, is the best in the world.

  65. jmo, mls says:

    *jmo, you have a one track mind.*

    Soren, you didn’t answer the question, WHICH PARTY has run Philadelphia [and most other large cities] for DECADES? It seems a bit odd that the party that ALA constantly champions in its propaganda would stick up for libraries as payback for that undying, unquestioning support. Hmph, I guess not–sorry, Comrades…omelets, broken eggs, you know.

  66. anon nun says:

    I’m still waiting for evidence that our education system has declined.

  67. Disgusted says:

    Fine, anon nun. I fully agree with Soren, Webbygrl, and Mr. Kat, so I’ll answer your call for evidence.

    Four years ago, I was studying to be a school media specialist, or school librarian, for those of you not up with the new lingo. During my field experience at a middle school library, I had the opportunity to assist an 8th grade Honors English class with a project involving historical fiction. The assigment was part of a unit in which they studied the book My Brother Sam is Dead. At the beginning of our lesson, my mentoring librarian and I asked the students how they liked the book. They didn’t like it, they replied. When we asked why, they said “Because the book doesn’t tell you who won the war.” For those of you who are not familiar with this novel, it takes place during the Revolution. And these, the best and brightest students being raised and educated in one of the “original thirteen”, didn’t know who won the Revolutionary War. Tragic.

  68. anon nun says:

    You’re confusing anecdotes with real evidence. For every story like that, I can tell you many stories about eighth graders solving calculus equations.

  69. Reference Librarian says:

    C’mon disgusted, tell us. Who won the war?

  70. Disgusted says:

    God save the Queen?

  71. Mithrandir says:

    Anon Nun,

    you’re missing the point. Sure there will always be very intelligent children who reach beyond what other kids can only dream of doing, but that speaks more for the intelligence of those kids, not about how wonderful their education is. And how many of those 8th grade Einsteins are in inner city public schools?
    Here’s where you seem to misunderstand, there shouldn’t be ANY kids who don’t know who won the Revolutionary War. Zero. None. Our educational system blows

  72. Po' boy says:

    There are lots of those 8th grade Einsteins in the inner cities. Unfortunately, they are too busy avoiding becoming dead to really flourish. That and the fact that their teachers are either a)Burned out losers who can’t get a job anywhere else or 2)Pie in the sky newbies who if they can keep their talent from being beaten out of them by the AFT will move to a suburban school as soon as they can.

  73. anon nun says:

    Our educational system may be far from perfect, but it remains the best system in the world.

  74. Disgusted says:

    Yes, I should have mentioned that this school was also in a middle-class suburb. These children were not disadvantaged. And if you want statistics, just go look for the most recent PISA report, from 2006, published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (I would link to it, but this commenting system won’t allow for links). That report will give you all the hard data that you need. Our educational system is failing. The kids who achieve do so in spite of the system, not because of it.

  75. Just says:

    The amount of time kids spend in school is the same amount of time it takes to beat the individuality, creativity, and joy of learning out of 98% of them.

  76. jmo, mls says:

    *The amount of time kids spend in school is the same amount of time it takes to beat the individuality, creativity, and joy of learning out of 98% of them.*

    Hi Dave Meier! I find it amusing that the educational system was just fine for 400 years or so, and then the boomers came along and spared, or were spared, the rod.

  77. Mithrandir says:

    Anon Nun,

    i wish you were right, i really do, but you’re nuts for believeing our system is the best.

  78. librarEwoman says:

    Don’t believe the hype. We have the best educational system in the world. American kids have opportunities that kids in other countries can only dream about. It’s too bad the whiny liberals (such as some on this blog) can’t see throught the CNN hype.

  79. You Betcha says:

    yer darn tootin we gots the best teachers learnin hour kids. specially da lesson dat da union iz guds so once you gets tenure, you donts even hast to try anymore

  80. Mr. Kat says:

    anon Nun, You need to realize that each on of these anecdotes qualifies as Qualitative evidence;along, each one tells a single case story. now put the case stories together and you start nearing a quantitavie study. And when you start tallying up the numebr of instances where these anecdotes ring true, the numebrs become frightening.

    Unbiased International measurement studies have now determined that European nations have better educational potency then the United States. Japan is above us. The longer we REFUSE to see the wall for what it is, the longer we will be stuck behind it.

    Pride in American Nationalism is great, but it only goes so far. It cannot cover up the evidence.

  81. soren faust says:

    LibrarEwoman and jmo, opportunities are worthless if you’re not qualified to take advantage of them.

    If the democrats are to blame as many of you seem to think, then I think the real blame rests on you, the republicans, for allowing it to happen. You have set yourselves up as stalwarts of goodness and pitted yourselves against democrats as devils. I assume you know your Bible, and in the Bible good always wins out in the end. So, where were you during this demonic revolution, otherwise known as the baby boomers? Would you stand by and let a person drown, as well? Your view of the world is cynical and allows no room for the fallibilities of people, of generations. I can well imagine things would be messed up in one way or another no matter who or what generation was dominant; it’s called history and sadly, history does repeat itself.

    And, for the record, I’m not a democrat, although I’m sure you think I am one because I don’t adopt an us and them, either/or, false dichotomy viewpoint of the world as it seems the republicans are masters of doing, particularly in recent times. You and I need to transcend these categories and look for a better synthesis.

  82. anon nun says:

    There is just as much qualitative evidence that our educational system is good as there is that it is bad. It’s just that the good stories are boring so they don’t make the headlines. Hype is rarely realistic.

  83. jmo, mls says:

    *If the democrats are to blame as many of you seem to think, then I think the real blame rests on you, the republicans, for allowing it to happen.*

    Philadelphia has had a Dem Mayor since 1952. Voter registration in Philadelphia stands at 75% Dem. Its city council has 17 members. 14 are Democrats. Who do you suggest we blame?

  84. soren faust says:

    I’m no longer talking about Philadelphia, but the Dem/Republican blame game for all the ills of society. The Dems blame the Republican and vice versa. I think it’s time to admit that to some extent everyone is guilty. You know what they say: if you need to blame someone, throw a rock in the air and you’ll hit some guilty. Well, how true, how true. The baby boomers may be guilty of a lot, but I’m not sure it’s because they were “baby boomers” instead, they were a generation of people who existed at a very unique period in history, much of which they neither fully grasped nor had much control over. I’m not saying to absolve them as victims, but to understand that in a way, they had little choice in the matter, particularly as a whole group. It’s like making mistakes in youth, sometimes it’s for the best in the long run. There is certainly no need to be bitter over it and try to distance yourself from it by aligning yourself with a false innocent party.

    Over.

  85. MEJ says:

    *I’m no longer talking about Philadelphia, but the Dem/Republican blame game for all the ills of society*

    Ah, but we ARE talking about Philadelphia and we are talking about libraries [not whatever you want to threadjack into--do it on your own blog], and how hilarious it is that while the ALA thinks that the GOP will have them all fired or burnt as witches and went ON AND ON ABOUT IT in the issues heading up to the election, it’s actually the mouth they fed that has bit them the hardest. Your naive and simple-minded insistence that “everyone does, so everyone’s guilty” just doesn’t fly here. You know very well that if this was a heavily GOP area that ALA would be screaming bloody partisan murder–so spare us the fence-sitting sanctimony, please.

  86. soren faust says:

    MEJ, you’re a dimwit and have nothing of substance to offer. I don’t give a damn what you think I ought to be talking about or how I should choose to direct this conversation. Why *don’t you get your own blog* dumbass? Philadelphia is not the only city in this country that is dealing with political issues. There is nothing logically wrong with looking at the bigger picture, but it’s obvious your provincial views are constricting your ability to see it. Sorry for you.

  87. jmo, mls says:

    Wow, Soren…not only can you not stay on topic but now you’re abusing interlopers. Geez. Doesn’t LJ have some sort of policy on abusive posts? It seems like some people can grasp that we are talking about Philadelphia here–as per the author of this blog–and some people cannot. We’re not talking about the “bigger picture”. You’re trying to muddy the waters by bringing up elements that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  88. Greg Brady says:

    CATFIGHT!!

  89. soren faust says:

    Greg, it’s not a cat fight (btw, my favorite trick you pulled was when you fooled Peter into believing in flying saucers; that was awesome). J and I feed off of one another; it’s a sick and twisted co-dependent relationship. J, I admit that I may have overreacted to MEJ’s comment, but I have every right to bring the issue to a larger arena. There is nothing inappropriate about leaving Philly to discuss what’s happening to public libraries in general. It’s my perogative. If so and so doesn’t like it, I still don’t give a damn and will not constrain myself to the nonsense which is MEJ’s comment. Nothing personal, MEJ. Keep on rocking Philly!

  90. Greg Brady says:

    That’s nice but we want a

    CATFIGHT!!!!

  91. carptrash says:

    I don’t have a TV (just for VCRs and DVDS) so my view of the American education system is filtered through my eyes – that’s as good as I can do, But when my wife and my daughter went to the same high school (a “good” school – not like the one my daughter taught in in a major inner city) and had to read the exact same books in 9th grade English, it points to bad things. For something like that to not change in a generation when the rest of the world is changing at an enormous rate suggests to me that the system is 2nd rate. I have more.

    and someone else asks, “Who do you suggest we blame?” To that I say “***K blame.” I’m with SF here. It doesn’t really matter how we got here. What matters is how do we get out.

    We are talking about the bigger picture. We need to look at the forest if we want to figure out what’s wrong with the trees. eeeek

  92. yoyoyo says:

    So when a student reads Hamlet – that is bad because students read the same thing 20 years ago? This is another example of trying to find evidence of something that is mostly hype.

  93. carptrash says:

    “This is another example of trying to find evidence of something that is mostly hype.”
    YoYo – I have no idea of what the “hype” is saying. And, if we must do Shakespeare (and why not) there are a lot more plays to choose from that just Hamlet. But I was thinking of “Catcher in the Rye” which was cutting edge (more or less) when my wife went to school and old hat a generation later.

    I spent 10 years in the homeschooling industry, listing to thousands of students and parents tell me why public school was not working for them. And it was not because of what they heard on CNN or FOX. eeeeeeeek

  94. yoyoyo says:

    Of course people in the “homeschooling industry” have bad things to say about public schools. Duh.

  95. carptrash says:

    Well I am not in the homeschooling industry any more, so have no reason to back it other than how I feel. And it is not what I have to say about the public schools it was what the hundreds of students and parents had to say about it. Which sort of distilled down to “It does not met my needs.” Or “my kids needs.” Education can never (opinion) be “a one size fits all” event, any more than libraries can. Public schools are set up first for the convenience of the administration, then for the teachers then for the janitors and then for the students. Coming in forth doesn’t even earn one a medal. eeeek

  96. george the librarian says:

    Don’t complain about the education system until you learn how to spell the word fourth.

  97. carptrash says:

    and I learned to spell where?
    eeeek

  98. george the librarian says:

    That’s the problem in a nutshell. A person with a basic lack of grammar cries out about the education system failing him. Take some personal responsibility to educate yourself. And parents – take some personal responsibility to educate your kids. We’re all a part of the system.

  99. Mr. Kat says:

    When parents are ready to take on the financial obligation of educating their children at home rather then use the FREE system made available to them by the state, you’d THINK the pep rally members would take off their blinders and remove the cotton from their ears to at least investigate a little deeper. But no. They dismiss the problem and pretend it does not exist.

  100. Guybrarian says:

    Parents homeschool their kids because they don’t want their kids hanging out with kids whose parents aren’t willing to fulfill their responsibility in the education system. The parents have the most important role of all.

  101. carptrash says:

    “and I learned to spell where?”
    This has been bothering me all night and I gotta come clean. Aside from the fact that I obviously did not learn to spell anywhere, i also did not attend public school. However let’s do homeschooling another day. When AL sets us up properly. eeek

  102. Death says:

    When too many kids are homeschooled, society starts to fall apart. People start to think they are special and above everyone else.

    God Bless!

  103. library school student says:

    All people should think they are special. It’s called ambition.

  104. carptrash says:

    All people should think they are special because they are.
    Perhaps folks homeschool because society is falling apart.
    Let’s not assume what’s cause and what’s effect without a bit of thought. eek

  105. trimyourposts says:

    Perhaps people homeschool because they would rather shelter their kids than have their kids learn to work with others.

  106. Death says:

    Folks homeschool because society is falling apart.

    Yep, and you don’t want your kids to go to school with THEM do you?

  107. edumacated says:

    In many places homeschooling is a legal option for parents who wish to provide their children with a different learning environment than exists in nearby schools. The motivations for homeschooling range from a dissatisfaction with the schools in their area to the dissatisfaction of modern schools in general. It is also an alternative for families living in isolated rural locations and those who choose, for practical or personal reasons, not to have their children attend school.

    Homeschooling may also refer to instruction in the home under the supervision of correspondence schools or umbrella schools. In some places, an approved curriculum is legally required if children are to be home-schooled. A curriculum-free philosophy of homeschooling may be called unschooling, a term coined in 1977 by American educator John Holt in his magazine Growing Without Schooling.

  108. Death says:

    Homeschooling is fine, but the football games and the Prom are a bit of a drag.

  109. Mobama says:

    In the United States and Canada a prom, short for promenade, is a semi-formal (black tie) dance held at the end of an academic year. In the United Kingdom, the term is more widely understood to be in reference to a season of classical concerts or “proms”, which have been held between July and September since 1895, today run by the BBC. The British synonym for the North American event would be Leavers’ Ball, Leavers’ Dinner, Formal or informally Leavers’ Do, closer to the Australian description, although in the UK, many schools have called the above events prom in imitation of the North American tradition. In Canada the terms Grad or Formal are most common and the event is usually only held for those in their graduating year of high school or middle school.

    While proms at smaller schools may hold a school prom open to the entire student body, large high schools may hold two proms, a junior prom for those finishing their 11th grade year and a senior prom for those who are finishing their high school years. When the junior and senior prom are combined, it is sometimes traditional to have the junior class plan and organize the prom. Proms are mostly attended by juniors and seniors, but some schools allow all classes to attend, usually requiring that one of the couple be an upperclassman.

    The name is derived from the late nineteenth century practice of a promenade ball. The end of year tradition stemmed from the graduation ball tradition.

  110. Jomama says:

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  111. jmo, mls says:

    *and someone else asks, “Who do you suggest we blame?” To that I say “***K blame.” I’m with SF here. It doesn’t really matter how we got here. What matters is how do we get out. *

    Well, “we” could start by not listening to the editorial board of Library Journal and their associated goon squad(s). If we were to follow their path to one-party state-sponsored paradise as represented by the Philadelphia “experiment” over the last 50 years, we’ll all end up in a soup line.

  112. jmo, mls says:

    *Philadelphia is not the only city in this country that is dealing with political issues.*

    Oh, btw, Soren…where are these other cities “dealing with political issues” that include mass firings of librarians? Besides, Wauwautosa, Wisc., or wherever that place was last year?

  113. soren faust says:

    jmo, I concede this debate. I know very little about Philly politics and know of no other city laying off librarians in such great numbers. I have no doubt that the current administration has made poor decisions that have led to this situation concering the closings of branches and layoffs of librarians. At the same time, it is not because and only because, they are democrats. At least, I have a hard time believing that simply due to the fact that there are other areas of the coutry that probably have democratic dominant administrations and we’ve yet to hear anything about masses of librarians being laid off elsewhere. It just gets tiresome to hear people reduce to, what probably amounts to a complex set of variables, a one variable scenario when it comes to running something as complex as a city or any large organization/institution for that matter.

  114. jmo, mls says:

    *jmo, I concede this debate. At the same time, it is not because and only because, they are democrats.*

    It’s not really a debate. I don’t understand why the irony is so difficult to grasp here: the ALA promotes one party above all others and encourages their members to vote for that party. That same party screwed some library employees pretty royally here–well, they have been screwing them for years if you look at state and local funding in PA for libraries. So some folks voted for their own extinction many, many times in Philadelphia. Will being unemployed affect their voting behavior in the future? Probably not.

  115. soren faust says:

    Well, be that the case, concerning politics, I like this line from (old) Aerosmith: “Man has known it, now he’s blown it; upside down and hell’s the only sound; he did an awful job and it’s a little too late.”

    You and I have a stark difference in our views of humanity’s capacity to consistently govern things in such a manner that equity is a reality and no one falls into the temptation of serving one’s self. Probably one day in the future things will change in Philadelphia, maybe Philadelphians will become sick and tired of the same old thing. Whatever the case, if and when it happens it just wouldn’t surprise me if in the end chaos stuck out it’s ugly head once again and we have politics as usual. That’s pretty much my take on politics: but don’t call me a defeatist, just your neighborhood realist.

  116. Mr. Kat says:

    To get the FULL story in Philly, you have to look at the numbers. The cuts tend to apply to libraries with SMALLER circulations. The 11 proposed closings, however, do not represent the 11 smallest libraries (just four of the smallest 11 are on the chopping block). Some of the libraries in jeopardy have relatively HIGH circulation rates.

    The cuts are pretty well-spread along INCOME levels, but sorting by family poverty levels shows that the areas with highest and lowest POVERTY rates have been spared library cuts, while areas in between seem to bear the burden.

    Looking at a map of the proposed closings, they appear to be fairly evenly distributed around the city. But sort by COUNCIL district, and the spread could be seen as POLITICAL as much as geographic. The 11 libraries are represented by eight Council districts; no Council district would take more than two cuts.

    It’s politics as usual in Philly and the public librarians don’t have the GUTS to do anything about it.

  117. Mr. Kat says:

    ….

    Mr. Kat does not know Philadelphia, has no interest in Phillie to this level of detail, and is not offering up the previous comment. Mr. Kat asks the imposter to respectfully get their own handle because this is ridiculous. What is worse is whoever you have, you have put up a really nice post with good points – why hide like this?.

  118. Tyrone From Detroit says:

    How the hell does Philly have 54 branches? Detroit is a similar city and it has about 20 or so. 20 bucks says Detroit closes half of it branches in the next year with the collapse of the local economy. Fun stuff considering Wayne State University keeps rolling out LIS graduates like an assembly line.

  119. Donovan McNabb says:

    If the darn Eagles would just pay their taxes, then the libraries would be fine. I would include the link but LJ gets all hinky when you start putting stuff into the comments section. You’re librarians, go look it up.