Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You Are Invited By Anyone To Do Anything*

Yesterday, while still recovering from spending 8 hours at Save NYC Libraries' 24 Hour We Will Not Be Shushed Read-In, the YALSA Blog ran up behind me, yanked up my drawers and gave me a wedgie, insisting it only wanted to provoke me into articulating my feelings on panty-twisting.

Well, that's how it felt.

Playing advocate to a devil that doesn't need one, it asked, "Save Libraries?," and further inquired, "Should all libraries be saved?"

Here in NYC, we are in for the fight of our lives, as all three systems (Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and Queens Library) face debilitating cuts that if enacted would include layoffs of 1/3 of staff. Moreover, the libraries and media centers in schools, face similar fates. I'm not much in the mood to engage in a discussion on the future of libraries when the present is slipping away. We're bottom-runging Maslow's pyramid, and now is not the time for discussion. It is a time for action.

I am fortunate to have colleagues so committed to libraries, that they planned and organized the Read In, managing volunteers, readers, and the media, and staying on site for more than 24 hours. I stand an awe of them. The event attracted more than 1000 people, who filled out postcards, signed petitions, and just plain enjoyed the spectacle of people reading words and sharing stories. In the early morning hours, I read a selection of fiction, as well fairy and folk tales. I staffed the postcard table for a couple of hours, amazed that people had not heard about the cuts facing libraries.

On the teen librarian front, 17 of the 20 official young adult librarians at Queens Library have been given layoff notices that will take effect August 15, 2010 unless the budget is restored. Additionally, many generalist librarians who are responsible for providing teen services at communities libraries have received pink slips. Remaining staff that might not have the same skills or enthusiasm for teen services will be left to fill the gaps at libraries that will be open fewer hours and understaffed. Rinse, lather, repeat the same story for children's librarians. All libraries are worth being saved, if only for the youth that depend on them. Letting them close and hoping that something newer, better, more powerful opens in their absence, is a risk we shouldn't be ready to take.

To understand the importance of libraries, all you need to do is talk to the kids:

I do not mean to minimize the importance of libraries for adults, but I think the argument for saving all libraries can be made based on the services, sanctuary, and collections that libraries provide for young people. So, I hope all will join the effort to save libraries in anyway possible. Twibbon, postcard, 311 phone calls, e-mails to government officials, read-ins, protests, door chainings, outreach at bars and laundry mats. You are invited to do anything.

*This post powered by The Dismemberment Plan station on Pandora.

No comments: