Ah, recovery. Memorial Day is the day when Americans commemorate the American war dead by eating hot dogs and drinking beer. I had neither beer nor hot dogs, but it was a festive day nonetheless.
Library news from the Beaver State never seems to be good. Other news from the Beaver State might also be bad, but other than the library news I really don’t care. The library system in Hood River County is closing down because voters won’t support it, as their library website announces.
(From the url, the county could also be called Hoo Driver County, which would be much funnier.)
Oddly enough, the Oregonian anti-library disease seems to be spreading across the border to California, where Siskiyou County might close their libraries entirely. I almost lumped Siskiyou County in with Hood River County because of the typically shoddy local reporting that still thinks the only people who read news sites live in the area.
Siskiyou county residents are also mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. It probably didn’t help public relations that the unionized library employees have decided they’d rather have all the libraries closed than go without a cost-of-living adjustment for a year.
It’s hard not to be a little sympathetic to the librarians. After all, despite their unionization, in most places they haven’t won much more than job security. It’s not like public librarians are paid that well compared to the cost of living in their communities. However, it’s pretty clear that their compensation, along with all the other costs associated with running libraries, is still more than some communities are willing to pay.
Somewhere recently I read an argument that library cuts are good because they get rid of the fat, and in another place someone suggested that libraries need to get “lean.” I don’t really buy either of these arguments. Libraries need to be more focused, but many of them couldn’t be that much leaner.
If I were one of the few Oregonians willing to pony up a few dollars for the public good, I’d be very concerned about the closings and the future. Unlike cutbacks, closings are hard to reverse.
Oh, I know it’s been done in Oregon. A few years ago, in the middle of boom times for most of the country, Jackson County closed down their library system for a while because voters wouldn’t fund it.
The Jackson County library system eventually reopened under LSSI, much to the consternation of some librarians who would prefer communities not have libraries at all if they’re not staffed by unionized librarians, like some of the Siskiyou librarians.
However, sometimes Oregonians miss the boat, like those in Damascus, OR, who voted two years to opt out of the Clackamas County special library district being formed two years ago. When, surprisingly, the county voted to form the district, some of the residents had an epiphany, just like St. Paul on the road to…oh, never mind. The Damascus residents realized that unless they ponied up, they wouldn’t get library service, so now they’re trying to become part of the system.
Some Americans out west think that they represent the future. Something happens in California or Oregon, and it’s a harbinger of things to come in the rest of the country at some point. California has proved most prescient in this regard, from pet rocks to state fiscal insolvency, but I’ve seen similar arguments about Oregon.
If the Oregon, or Oregono-Californian opposition to funding libraries is the future, then the future is bleak indeed. The rest of the country, even formerly civilized places, can then enjoy all the benefits of rural and small-town life…like ignorance, poverty, and nosey neighbors.
Which is why I would hope the rest of the country doesn’t follow the folly of eliminating libraries completely. Cuts are bad enough, but cuts can be reversed, and at the worst they don’t render false the hope that libraries do provide for some small portion of the community. Libraries can be small, shrunken places and still serve their basic mission.
This might be bad for the librarians, which is why they not only protest cuts but sometimes to refuse to share any fiscal pain. But the library transcends the librarians. Library closings would be a bad future for many Americans.
Maybe the Oregon mess will provide more opportunities for LSSI and similar companies, and given the tenor of the times, I can see this as a possible future .
There seems to be a huge contingent of radicals who oppose all public services, and who think they should all be privatized if not outright eliminated. Perhaps librarians should adopt the same mentality, and sell out to groups like LSSI. This has the benefit of appearing to be privatized while still being funded by the public.
Of course, like all privatization, it gives only the appearance of not being public, while removing oversight and control from public, but at least it’s cheaper!
Maybe that’s what libraries should to do adapt to the radical, anti-social times we seem to be living in. They should all “privatize” themselves or just close down completely. This could be our Oregonian future.