Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Heart Breaking Story About A Little City Library Who Said It Can't

Libraries are an amazing place for a reader to go because they hold so many wonderful stories just waiting to be discovered all in one place. They make reading accessible to everyone, taking away many barriers that have stopped people from picking up a good book and letting their imaginations run wild. To me, they're a vital part to any community and should be cherished above all else for the amazing resource and services they offer. So what happens to those libraries, where despite how loved it is by those that go there, stop being able to keep going in providing the fundamental elements that make a library a library? (click on the title for more)

The above picture is my local library and after getting some great advice on how to save my wallet from crazy book buying, I went there this week to check it out. I used to go there alot before, walking out with an armful of books and filled with the excitement of being able to read new books. I'd spend large chunks of time going through the new releases, getting giddy each time I found a book I'd heard alot of buzz over and would love walking through the aisles looking for a new treasure. I went with high expectations that when I got there, I'd find some of the latest books I've been wanting and nothing could prepare me for shock and heartbreak that followed.

Where did all the books go? I remembered shelves filled to overflowing and the room just seemed so empty. I walked over to the new release section for adult fiction and immediately noticed that one of the four sided display shelves was missing and the remaining one held books that if you put all the books together would MAYBE fill two sides. I was sure I'd find some of the books that have been released in at least the last 6 months and there was nothing but a select few. I walked over to the hard cover section and found the same thing. I seriously stood there confused and scratching my head and with a sinking feeling in my stomach, I made my way to the YA room.

This room made me sob. Here I should have found every entice possible to encourage the youth to read and it too was strangely looking on the empty side. I made a beeline for the new releases display and died! The books there if placed together would barely fill 3/4 of one side in the four sided shelves. The newest book I recognized there was Glass House by Rachel Caine and a few others I wasn't particularly familiar with. Hoping that maybe they were amongst the four bookshelves along the wall, I skimmed through and hit book after book of the same old ones I'd seen the last time I visited. The only relatively new book I found was Shade by Jeri Ready Smith and noticed a few books that were released last year. I admit that I looked for select titles I was familiar with and need to factor in maybe the books were checked out, but with the paranormal being such a popular genre now, there should have been alot more to choose from. I turned to ask someone who worked there and found no one. Another thing that had changed, there seemed to be less people.

I was able to find the first 3 books to Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series and so with my small pile made my way to the counter. I was so confused about such a drastic change that I asked the librarian if she would be getting any new releases, offering some titles. Her answer floored me. "Belinda, I don't know when or if we'll be able to get those books because we just don't have any money" *What?? Isn't that what a library does - buy a variety of new books for patrons so the library can keep up to date and encourage readers?* Another worker with a very sad look on his face added, "Belinda, the city has cut our budget almost in half and it's been like this for two years" *Two years???* I shared my shock and concern with them, wondering why something like this would happen and the librarian again shared that they desperately wanted to buy new books but with all the budget cuts happening it just wasn't possible. The last time I'd been to the library they had cut out the inter library loaning system and the only ray of sunshine to this visit was they had brought it back, but with the condition that you can only borrow one book at a time. The three of us stood there in silence for a moment, mourning what I see as the slow death of the library. I thanked them for their help and for the wonderful service they provide and left with my books depressed.

My visit has since then haunted me. I can't help but think of how many readers have or will stop going because the books there no longer interest them or they can't find the books that excite them. I think about the youth who hear about these amazing new reads and finally make the decision that they'll read but when they get there, find nothing and walk away. If this is happening in the YA section, I cringe about the children's section where developing that love to read is important in raising life long readers. I also cringe for adults like myself, who after dealing with the stress of the day want nothing more than to escape into a good book for a while. I feel bad for my community.

So what can I, one person do? First off, I signed the petition that voiced the need to getting more money to support the library. Second, this weekend I'm going through my books and donating some of the books that have just sat there, new releases and old. It's a start but it still feels like a small grain of sand dropping in a vast ocean. I still feel like there's something more. The idea of doing a book drive has been floating around in my mind but it seems so overwhelming for just one person and I honestly wouldn't even know where to begin. There just has to be something I can do and that's the question I have for you all - what would you do if this was your local library? How would you go about helping? I realize that maybe all I can do is donate and support but this has really stirred up a passionate cry of concern that I'm not sure how to answer. Any advice or comments would be greatly appreciated.


Flippin' Fabulous- A Reader's Record said...

It is totally sad, isn't it? I made a trip to my library, not the local one, but the one across the county. I knew if I went to my po-dunk in an old-house library I wouldn't find anything YA. I had a friend tell me there was one shelf of select donated stuff.

Anyway, they had a whole YA room. Most everything, even on the new releases was from the end of 2009 or beginning of this year. Even then, there wasn't much at that.

All I can think to do is donate a few books here and there and every time I go in I'm going to donate a dollar for every book I check out. Yeah, it should be free- but for whatever reason they are getting cut back despite their purpose in the community. I figure for every hard back I get they are saving me at least $15. So, if I give at least a dollar for my *borrowing* of the book I am still saving and helping buy some new material.

Like you, I remember when shelves were over flowing, stuck on carts at the end of the cases too. When you could go in the week a book was released and grab a copy. I remember finding great stuff all the time. Now? Let's just say I had to look hard to find what I did.

Too bad our book blogs oculdn't help spread more awareness to this sad problem

Katie said...

Wow. This is really sad. The situation is very different here in Canada...for now. Our system is actually in the process of opening up a new branch, and I read an article some where that said that Canada was one of the only countries that had growth in terms of libraries. So it's awesome that your bringing attention to this issue. If people want to change it, they need to say something about it, speak up and talk to your city government and petition!!!!

LMW said...

Great article! I agree that every effort should be made to keep our libraries full. Our area has been very fortunate. We have been having new libraries built because the old ones were over capacity. I hope things will get better soon for your library. I hate to see people bypass reading because they can't find what they want.

Jamie said...

I agree with Katie. Be vocal. I say we start us a "save the libraries" movement on our blogs!

Oh and if you do decide to do a book drive for your library count me in. I'm actually in the process of finding new homes for a lot of my books.

Kate said...

That's so sad! I hate that libraries are no longer priorities to the government. Both of my local libraries had levy's on the ballot last year and thankfully they both passed. I remember joining facebook groups to support the libraries and sending letters to government representatives. I'm sure my library would be facing the same problems as yours if it has not passed. I worry about the kids who can't afford to buy new books and are unable to find something to read at their local library. As a future educator, I'm already thinking about how to make my classroom library inviting to all of my students, even the ones who think they don't enjoy reading. Since joining the blogging world I have been amazed at all of the great books that are being published for young adults. I hope that by reading some of them I will be able to better relate to my students. I think more funding needs to be given to libraries, otherwise the whole educational system is just going to suffer. I would definitely donate books to my library but they only take donations for the annual library sale, which is always a big hit around town. I go as often as I can to purchase books and help support the library in the process. I'm sorry your trip to your own library was so disappointing. Your story will make me think twice before I get frustrated that I can't get every new release at my library. I'm very lucky that they have the budget to purchase the things they do and I should appreciate that more.

Rummanah Aasi said...

This blog post broke my heart, because it's very unfortunate and true. I'm a librarian myself and am currently looking for a full time job. It's been very hard finding any job postings due to these cutes. Many states are cutting back library funds, mainly because they don't value the library and believe it doesn't have any importance.

My advice would be to see if you can attend a library board meeting and tell them how you valuable the library. Bring a few people along. The more you vocalize, the more the admins would reconsider their decision. I don't know if your library has written any grants to get money to fund their collections.

Donating your old books and signing a pettition is a great idea. My local libraries get a lot of funds by hosting a library booksale run by a "Friends of the Library" group, where people donate (tax deductible) their unwanted books, movies, games, etc. Hope this helps! Thank you for speaking up for your library. It means more than you could possibly know. :)

Ginger said...

Perhaps you could organize some sort of fundraiser for the Library, where people can come donate their books. That way it brings attention to the matter so more people in the community are aware of it & it helps restock the shelves.

Page said...

I work in a public library so I know first hand how tough it is. My department we have 2 full time staff and 2 part time staff and we can't hire replacements. We get a lot of our funding from our state (NC) and the state is having budget problems. In the town I used to work in they closed 4 libraries and laid off hundreds of people. Without our patrons support, we'd not be where we are. I'm glad you are trying to saving your local library. Good luck.

LupLun said...

Good questions. Hmm.

Well, let's see... presumably these decisions are made by the city government? Find out who, exactly, has responsibility for making the decisions. If it's an elected official or officials, then it's an issue you may be able to make political in the next election. You can also get the community involved- holding a book drive may be a good idea, talk to the librarians about that. Recruit at the local high schools- you can always count on them having a healthy crop of young idealists. ^_^

*shrugs* I'm sorry, I'm not much into grassroots politics. Try asking somebody who knows, the ALA has a convenient list of organizations:

You could also try calling your state's ALA chapter. Explain the situation, tell them you want to help but you're not sure how, etc..