Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Multnomah County Library: An Update.

It occurs to me that in addition to continually posting new awesome things I like, every now and then I would also like to do some updates concerning things I've already liked. This time it's Multnomah County Library, which I wrote about way back in January. But when I read this article in the Oregonian this week, I felt the need to brag about how awesome it really is. In other words, We're number 1! We're number 1! We're number 1 (still)! I also read this article last week about how there are over 1,000 holds on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at MCL, even though there are already 200 copies of it in circulation. I know the article was mainly talking about readers' frustration at having to wait for copies, but I came away with only thinking (no matter how you feel about Stieg Larsson), Over 1,000 people in one place really want to read a book. And that, in my opinion, is really cool. I like that a lot.

I realized how truly lucky we are, however, when I read this amazingly depressing article about Camden, NJ. Although I realize libraries across the nation have been struggling and cutting back due to the recession, Camden will be the first place to close ALL of its libraries due to budget cuts. Libraries closing anywhere are a huge loss for society, but they are especially needed in cities and towns that are troubled and poor--like Camden. As the article says:

"Of all places, they're one of the places that needs free public libraries the most," said Audra Caplan, president of the Public Library Association.

The city of about 80,000 residents across the Delaware River from Philadelphia consistently ranks as one of the nation's most impoverished. It's a place where most families don't own computers, where just one big bookstore serves the local colleges and where some of the public schools don't even have librarians.

Free public libraries are simply one of the greatest ideas human beings have ever come up with, and even though I know budgets are hurting everywhere, the idea of them being completely closed down seems like an atrocity to me, something full of deep sadness. Unemployed people need those libraries to craft resumes and look for jobs; busy parents need enriching activities to send their children to during the summer; homeless people--or just people in general--need a warm, dry, quiet place to feel safe for an hour or two. Libraries are not just a bastion of knowledge; they are a safe place. Libraries are a bedrock of communities. We need them, especially now.
Szpila already is starting to work on plans for what to do with the 187,000 books and artifacts the library has acquired since it opened in 1904 with a $100,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie. They would have to be sold, donated or destroyed, he said.
Destroyed! My heart is aching. Hopefully the media coverage will garner some fundraising and donation efforts and at least one of the branches can be saved.

But to end on a more positive note, while I'm talking about libraries, I also need to mention The Unquiet Librarian. I had heard of this blog from a professor two terms ago, but only recently got around to actually adding it to my blogroll and reading all of the updates. It's written by Buffy Hamilton, library media specialist extraordinaire at a high school in Georgia, and it/she is amazing. Every time I read an entry, I feel educated and inspired about this field that I will hopefully one day devote my life to. It's especially nice to read now that my current studies for the next year are related solely to education and not necessarily librarianship (although the two are of course intricately and inherently related). Reading it brings me up to date on things I've been talking about/studying with other school librarians over the last year, so I don't lose sight of things. Honestly she does so much stuff for her kids and her school I don't know how she has time to maintain such a professional and up to date blog and internet presence, but I'm grateful for it. In fact, I am pretty grateful people like her exist. The more Buffy Hamiltons there are, and the more school administrators there are that allow libraries like hers to exist, the better off our next generation will be.

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