Libraries are always under attack, but the attacks lately have been strange. Tea Party types think libraries are socialist, because they were supported by that archsocialist Andrew Carnegie.
Busybodies want to remove books from school libraries their children don’t even use.
And the last few years have seen politicians vying to see who can cut library funding the most.
I thought I’d seen everything, but I was wrong. I hadn’t seen any politicians trying to reduce library funding because a library service was too efficient, but I’ve seen it now.
In New Hampshire, a Republican state representative is trying to reduce funding for the state’s popular interlibrary loan program because the service works too well.
He claims to be a frequent user of ILL. According to the article, “What irks him, he said yesterday, is that he gets his requested books within a day or two.”
Librarians often encounter patrons who are irked that they get their requested books in a day or two, as opposed to immediately. But this guy is complaining because his books come too fast.
“He’d be happier to wait longer and save money by reducing the number of vans, he said.”
This is obviously a ploy, because in the history of libraries there has never been a single library patron who was happier to wait longer. Ever. They might understand why they have to wait longer, but every one of them would be happier having their books immediately. Anyone happier to wait is somehow unnatural.
In the race to cut funding from every possible public service, he was trying to cut funding the state doesn’t even pay for.
The unnatural representative tried to cut the funding for the ILL vans that roam the roads of the Granite State, only to find that New Hampshire doesn’t pay for the vans. They’re paid for out of IMLS funds the state has been using for 15 years.
Since a state legislature can’t cut funding the state doesn’t pay for, they “requested the state Department of Cultural Resources tell the Legislature by Nov. 30 what it could do with its federal money if it eliminated most of its inter-library loan vans.”
I won’t begin to speculate on what the Department of Cultural resources would like to do with its federal money, but I have a feeling what it thinks the Legislature can do with its request.
Unlike that IMLS grant a few years ago to increase the number of librarians in the country by funding LIS PhD students, this IMLS money actually does something useful for libraries and library patrons.
Librarians and library users in the state are protesting his action, naturally enough. In response, the legislator “accused librarians and the state Department of Cultural Resources of intentionally hyping and misrepresenting the issue to get back at lawmakers for cutting the department’s budget.”
That’s one way of looking at it, I guess. Or it could be that librarians are protesting someone trying to make further budget cuts by trying to cut funding they don’t even control. You say tomayto, I say tomahto.
The craziest thing in all this is the scope of the New Hampshire ILL service. The legislator wants to cut 75% of the funding (which would still be spent somewhere on museum or library related projects), because he want to reduce the number of ILL vans in New Hampshire to…one.
That’s right. This entire service consists of four vans shuttling books around the state. One state, four whole vans? That’s just crazy waste.
While the legislator gets his books in a day or two, from the article it seems the ILL van visits many of the libraries only once a week. The legislator says he’d be happy to wait longer, but for most people that would mean a wait of up to a month.
It’s better than no ILL service at all, I guess, but not much better. In the next round of funding, the legislator might suggest trading in the van for something more fuel efficient, like a burro. Then the wait might be a year or more.
When you have a state politician salivating to cut a popular public service funded by money his state doesn’t even provide and which would still have to be used for library-related services somewhere in the state, you know you’ve gone through the looking glass.