My mother read to the four of us every night, not from picture books, from real books. I remember The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew the best.
Last month my five-year-old granddaughter came for a visit. She loves both books and videos, so the day after she arrived I drove her to the library to check out a few.
The doors were locked. Unsure of the library's constantly changing hours and days, I'd waiting until after lunch, feeling certain it would be open on a Monday afternoon during Spring Break.
It was not, but six teenage couples were making out on the library's covered steps.
This city faced a budget crisis long before the housing market failed. City officials selfishly voted themselves over-generous pension benefits that have left the City strapped to pay. No financial institution wants to buy our bonds. The City's credit rating has tanked, and our libraries face additional cuts. My branch is closed now on Sundays. Seniors living in surrounding apartment for seniors are locked out and can no longer gather there to read the Sunday paper, use the internet to stay in touch with grown children, or to enjoy a cool respite during a heat wave.
In the seventies, I was instrumental in getting that library built. I belong to a local community planning group and chaired the library committee whose job is was to assure the City built the library promised for our fast-growing subdivision. At that time, parents had to drive students working on term papers five miles to the nearest library.
As committee chair I regularly appeared before the City Council and the City Planning Commission to urge the expedient purchase of a site for our library. Developers were snatching up the suitable sites for service stations. One afternoon I drove the City Librarian around our nearly built-out streets, searching for a good site. Eventually the City purchased the present site.
Residents moving away from the area began leaving boxes of donated books on my door steps. When the time came to break ground for the new library our City Councilman invited me to turn the second shovel of dirt with a pretty gold shovel.
In the years since it opened, our library has outgrown its walls. about ten years ago the City purchased the adjoining lot a planned library expansion, but there's no funding for the expansion.
Instead, we're now locked out.
Is your library funding the first thing cut in a budget crisis? Our Friends of the Library group is composed of volunteers, mostly senior citizens who collect donated books for a monthly sale. Proceeds go toward the purchase of new books and video, but there's no room for more books. The shelves are stuffed.
There's a signup sheet for the computers, where the jobless wait their turn to apply for jobs, send out resumes, and sign up for online classes. Without a car, they've no place else to go when they're locked out,
For the American Library Association "Libraries Change Lives" Campaign in 1995 Author Ray Bradbury wrote, "Libraries are absolutely at the center of my life. Since I couldn't afford to go to college, I attended the library three or four days a week from the age of eighteen on, and graduated from the library when I was twenty-eight."
We must find a way to keep our libraries doors open.