Friday, June 8, 2012

Austerity Measures

I mentioned before that my library where I work is in a bit of a budget crisis.  Recently, the city was contemplating cutting 10% from our budget, which is a reduction of $355,000.  For other city departments, that may not be as significant as it is for our library.  Our library is not technically a city department, therefore, we employees are not on the city pension plan, we can't buy discounted heating oil from the city and we don't get vehicles or any other items that would help reduce our overhead expenses.

My library has a rather interesting origin story in that it's only been around for three years.  Yes, the building I work in has been a library for over 100 years, but the Providence Community Library system was started three years ago when the Providence Public Library system said that they could no longer afford to support the smaller branch libraries in the poorest neighborhoods (and believe me, Providence is poor).  For the past year, our nine neighborhood libraries have been operated by a non-profit determined not to cut library services to the people who need it the most.

It's a long story, and if you want more background, it's on our website, but right now I'm just bummed out.  It's unlikely that we'll lose much staff, but we will likely have to reduce hours, staff will take a pay cut, and we will have to try to find  way to find the money somewhere else.  Thankfully, the city restored $100,000 of that $355,000 cut, but any cut right now hurts a lot.

It just saddens me that when things get lean, we seem to stop being a country that cares about its people.  I hear everyday "Now that we have the internet, we don't need libraries anymore."  That may be true for many people, but just in my libraries alone, we had 680,000 library visits last year.  This year, that number has increased.  Also, what if you don't have the internet? 30% of Americans lack basic computer skills--most of those people are elderly or low-income.  If people don't have access to computers and the internet, they can't apply for jobs, they can't start a small business, they can't break the cycle of poverty.

Personally, since I moved to Rhode Island five years ago, I have borrowed nearly 2000 items from the library.  If we average a $10 cost per item, I've saved myself $20,000. That's a down payment on a house.

I didn't go into this profession to get rich, that's for sure, but it depresses me to no end that those of us who choose a profession where the major reward is warm fuzzies rather than fat bonuses are seen as expendable.  I'm worried about my own future, but I'm more worried about the people who depend on the library just to get by.

Sorry to end the week on such a down note, I'm just a little low right now.


  1. "I hear everyday 'Now that we have the internet, we don't need libraries anymore.'" -I hear this ALL the time with my job. I get "the library is boring compared to Google" and "Using Google is so much easier than looking at library books." I agree that this is totally depressing. Libraries are so valuable...I just hope society doesn't realize this until it is too late.

  2. I for one love that we moved two blocks away from the library. It was a godsend for us during lean times, and I still go several times a week to pick something up or drop something off. I will gab up libraries when I have the chance, and defend them like crazy to people who voice dissent!