What’s the big deal about cutting a few hours, days and potentially library branches, to prevent more day care centers, after-school programs and senior centers from closing their doors? Plenty, actually, because the library isn’t just a place to borrow materials and do research anymore; it is a haven that offers programming for people of ages, genders, religions, nationalities, and so on and so forth.
It’s not the ideal situation, but a child whose after-school program was cut can still go to the library and join a book club or get tutoring. A recent immigrant whose immigration center was shuttered can still take ESL classes at the library. A senior whose senior center closed its doors can still watch cultural performances at the library and make new friends by joining a group that meets at the library.
Slash library services and the aforementioned groups will lose even more of their already reduced options. It’s a double cut, if you will. When services are lacking in a community, the library often steps in to fill that void. If the library loses programs, what will they be replaced by?
This is a point that’s not as important in the face of an economic recession, but many of our libraries will have to remain in the 20th century after having enjoyed steady, future-oriented evolution for years. Some libraries now employ advanced microchip technology in a more streamlined checkout and return process, but many branches are still awaiting much-needed upgrades, which will now be put on hold indefinitely. That is, if they can even afford to stay open after the projected funding cuts take effect.
There are a lot of questions here, and not a lot of answers. Hopefully things will be more clear next week, when the City Council should have finalized the budget.