This is another in the impromptu series I seem to have started: How not to defend libraries. Stories like this one about budget cuts affecting the Queens library system are ripe for treatment.
The headline is, “Queens librarians union slams planned $17M budget cuts.” Oh, gee, what a surprise. A public sector union doesn’t like public budget cuts. Shocking, just shocking!
I’ve suggested other things to avoid if you want to persuade the public. Stop it already with hip librarian talk, or DVDs for the poor. Also, shut the unions up. Public unions are great at negotiating back-room deals where they just have to persuade some politicians into giving them other people’s money, but they’re terrible at propaganda. For example:
“Dozens of representatives from Queens Library Guild Local 1321 gathered outside the Central Library Branch and called on the mayor and City Council to rethink its budget proposal. The library could see nearly $17 million in cuts come July 1 and that would result in 329 employee layoffs, 14 branch closures and reduction in hours at other locations, according to union heads.”
Dozens! The other 2,000,000 people in Queens aren’t upset enough to come to the protest, apparently. Notice, of course, what the “union heads” put first: 329 employee layoffs. That’s bad, of course, especially for the 329 employees. I don’t want to see anyone laid off, but it’s clear that the employees are the most important thing to the union, while the most important thing to library users is the library…and their tax money.
“Union heads” are oblivious to the discrepancy between what they value most and what the public values most. Public employee unions value extracting money from the public, even in bad times. People around the country are out of work or not getting raises, their home values are dropping, and public library unions insist the librarians should still get pay raises. This is the sort of thing that just makes ordinary citizens angry. You know, those citizens who have to pay the taxes.
In addition to being oblivious, “union heads” aren’t averse to ridiculous hyperbole to get their way. Check out this howler: “’Worst case scenario, the library will be going back to the Dark Ages,’ the union’s president, Margalit Susser .”
Well, yes, I suppose that would be the worst case scenario, which could possibly happen if New York City were the victim of an extensive nuclear bombing campaign. Short of that, it’s nonsense, and anyone with any intelligence knows it. I suspect their are Queens residents who have at least enough intelligence to spot the nonsense.
But it’s not just the librarians the union is worried about. “Aside from a smaller staff, the union leader said the cuts would hurt the 2.2 million library users around the borough because it would hinder the services the branches offer.”
Oh, it would hurt the users. That almost sounds like a concern for the library users, until the next sentence. “The union also represents the clerical workers who take care of the equipment, such as the book scanners and computers, and offer guidance to those who are not tech-savvy.” Of course! There are all sorts of employees who would be harmed by cuts! Not just librarians!
After a brief mention of library users who might get affected, we end with more on how bad this is for the librarians. Beware, the following has the potential to make sensible librarians feel ill.
The union has also been making outreach to the elected officials by mailing them post cards and distributing petition slips at branches.Susser said she hopes something can be done to save the future of her members, because the job means a lot to them professionally and personally.
“For many people, the library is like a second home and the staff is family,” she said.
Good grief. She hopes something can be done “to save the future of her members“! Because the library is like their family! Oh, boohoo.
Let’s step back from this for a moment and pretend we don’t know any librarians. We’re just ordinary tax paying citizens who rarely use the library, but probably like the idea of libraries being around, just in case we want a DVD or some vacation reading, or because our neighbor’s kids like storytime , or whatever.
The point is that for us, if we think about it at all, the important thing about the library is the library, not the librarians. What do we ordinary people see when we read stories like this?
Yet another public sector union is fighting to keep their member’s pay and taxes as high as possible even during troubled economic times. Based on reading this, I have to think that the public library union really doesn’t care about me at all, but only about lining their pockets at my expense. Any concern for me or my interests is obviously an afterthought. In fact, once I think about it a little, who are these public unions organizing against? These aren’t coal miners organizing against The Man. Private unions organize against the employers who hire them. Public unions must therefore organize against the public, which means they’re organizing against me! These librarians who prattle on about how the library is their family and they deserve money from me because they need a job can just go f….
Let’s end there. I think you get the idea. It’s bad enough that there are people out to kill libraries without librarians handing them the weapons.