Thursday, October 14, 2010
A Heart Breaking Story About A Little City Library Who Said It Can't
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.