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The Rage to Defund Libraries Goes Off the Deep End

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.

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Comments

  1. Rory Litwin says:

    You don’t seem to realize that they tried communism and it didn’t work.

  2. Elena says:

    Rep. Steven Vaillancourt needs to find some other place to do some cutting, something that may make a difference positively, like, maybe his salary because he does his job “too efficiently”.

  3. KB says:

    Unfortunately NH State representatives only get $500/year. Which is why they are literally the most uneducated group of state legislators in the entire country. (http://chronicle.com/article/Degrees-of-Leadership-/127797/) Insanity like this can even make professional politicians look good.

  4. Becky says:

    Burros at least have the advantage of being renewable…

    Go green!

  5. Elaine Schmottlach says:

    NH legislators only make $100 a year, before taxes. In essence, it’s mostly a volunteer legislature of retirees and rich folks.

  6. bibliophile says:

    The ILL van comes to my small NH library once a week and my patrons have to wait at least a week or two for their materials. Mr. Vaillancourt patronizes (in both senses of the word) a city library which has its own consortium, so he gets his books faster than the rest of us in the Granite State. He should take a ride around the rest of his district before he makes his myopic demands. What a maroon.

  7. Heather says:

    Why is it that those who hate government, run for public office in the first place? And if elected, why are they always the first ones to create more work for the government while providing less resources?

  8. rpglibrarian says:

    It does sound like he is just making noise to be noticed.

    Hopefully he isn’t one of the people who believes everything is online (or at least, on Google).

  9. Bridgette says:

    Maybe he should volunteer to be the burro because he sounds like a real ass.

  10. NHLibrarian says:

    I wonder what pet project he wants to fund? Will serve a lot of NH residents or just a few? Sad day if our library patrons have to wait for the Pony Express to arrive with ILL requests.

  11. Bibliophile hits it on the head – Vaillancourt uses the largest public library in the state (though, the worst funded if you can figure that one out) which enjoys van service every day… because they need it.

    He fails to do his job which is to look beyond the confines of his narrow mind *ahem* experience into the larger picture. And that is that most of this state waits weeks for their ILLs because of once-per-week van delivery.

    In my opinion, he is cutting one of the most beloved, efficient, and important services the state library provides. I wish they did everything as well as they do the vans!

  12. Joseph Bicchieri says:

    If the efficiency of ILL is any indication, then a librarian could probably do a better job in the NH legislature than Rep. Steven Vaillancourt.

  13. Brad Collins says:

    I had to do a double-take on Carnegie as the “archsocialist”! Carnegie was the über-capitalist and probably would dwarf the richest person on earth today if he was still around to capitalize on our global markets. Anyone who links Carnegie with socialism needs to go to a library and take out a history book.

  14. Techserving You says:

    I’m usually not really a huge public library advocate, not because I don’t think they’re important, but because since college I have been immersed in the world of academic libraries. I haven’t had a need to use a public library, because I’ve had access to top-notch academic libraries. And, of course, there is the idea that being a public librarian means, more often than not, also being a social worker, baby sitter, and policeman. And, quite frankly, knowing how much (or little) work a lot of librarians actually do, I haven’t been all that outraged by stories of layoffs (at least in larger library systems.)

    But this story really, REALLY annoys me. I live in New Hampshire, in a small rural town, with a tiny, quaint little library. The library can’t afford to buy very much, and so it spends most of its collection development dollars on the items which are most popular (fiction, DVDs.) My town library and the many similar libraries in NH rely on ILL to provide access to all of the things the library can’t afford, or can’t justify buying because they’ll be used infrequently. The libraries rely on it for a lot of non-fiction and less-popular titles… you know, the stuff public libraries really should provide access to if they’re to meet their traditional role of providing education to the public.

    It is wonderful to have access to a broader system of library materials. And, it’s not just people in “rural backwaters” who need this system. I live just outside of the state capitol, Concord, but if I or anyone from my town wants access to the Concord Public Library, we need to pay $100 a year. That’s not a huge amount of money to me, but it would be a real hardship for many people in the area. And, perhaps surprisingly, many poor people in the area do not have cars. They live in the so-called “urban core” of small towns – the walkable “downtown” (even if it’s just an area of a few blocks) rather than out in the more rural locations of town. For these people, or those for whom gas prices are a real problem, driving even 20 minutes to the library is a hardship or impossibility. Nevermind the fact that we’d then be paying for a service which is supposed to be free. (I’m not suggesting we should get free access to another town’s library, but rather that we need the ILL service.)

    This service greatly enhances library service in most areas of NH. From what I heard at my local library, the service may be scaled back so that deliveries come every 6 weeks. Every 6 weeks!!! The van service is something which enables already stripped-down public libraries to do more with less, and now this guy wants to cripple the system further.

  15. Techserving You says:

    Oh, KB – the salary is not the reason the reps are, on average, less educated than in other states (which is news to me, but not all that surprising.) Other states have part-time legislatures too. The real reason is that this “citizen legislature” has 400 members in the House, and 24 in the Senate, for one of the smallest states in the country. (This is over twice the size of the Mass. legislature, which serves a state that is 6 times the size of NH.) Literally almost anyone can get elected. I’ve personally known several people who just decided they wanted to run, ran, and won. (And many of them then like to use the title “the honorable,” for life.) There are something like 103 Congressional districts. My small area has 4 reps. Basically when you vote and you can vote for 4 out of the 5 people on the ballot… you get the idea.

  16. Techserving You says:

    But actually, KB, out of fairness… that link you posted says:

    “In some cases, ambiguity or a lack of information meant that degrees earned and colleges attended, if any, could not be determined. The state where this is most evident is New Hampshire. Because of its unusually large, part-time legislature, the educational attainments of an inordinate number of lawmakers are unknown.”

    So, it is not necessarily near the bottom in terms of educational attainment.

  17. Laura M. says:

    “I had to do a double-take on Carnegie as the “archsocialist”! Carnegie was the über-capitalist and probably would dwarf the richest person on earth today if he was still around to capitalize on our global markets. Anyone who links Carnegie with socialism needs to go to a library and take out a history book.”

    Oh, I read that as complete sarcasm, Brad Collins. You are of course correct in your assessment of Carnegie; however, he took a significant portion of his capitalistic gains and put them to work building libraries to better educate the ‘poor masses’ that were less well-off than he and his ilk. I understood that to be the AL’s point – to contrast a capitalist from another century who put money into things that would benefit the community with the Tea Partiers who want no part of doing that.