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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guest Blog: Albuquerque City Council vs. Libraries

6a00d834519ed469e20147e3ac6f28970b-800wi This is a guest blog by Stuart Heady, a freelance writer and political activist who lives in Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque City Council has a proposal on the table to cut more jobs from the already stressed Albuquerque/Benalillo County library system. Eight jobs are on the hook, bringing the total staff down to 112, and this on top of reductions of about forty staff members in the last few years.

When does cutting fat from the budget become cutting the future?

The 21st century library is not the book warehouse that the 20th century library was, back in slower moving times. Now, the library is in demand by a public that needs a full gamut of Information Age services and resources, staffed by people with a career dedication to providing them and who have been very well educated themselves.

A Masters Degree in library science really represents a mastery of an entire worldwide inventory of knowledge and a bewildering and exponentially expanding universe of resources through which to access it. Librarians work after hours at home, keeping up with what the publishing industry is producing that patrons may want to know about.

Librarians are capable of dealing with people at all ages and at all literacy levels, whose interests range in all directions and who represent all possible learning styles. Really, the library is a comprehensive resource that is available to school children just learning how to do research, as well as to sophisticated adults with advanced degrees and everybody in between.

This is a front-line institution that directly or indirectly supports the work of schools in promoting literacy, THE crucial 21st century asset for a viable society. It isn't just about information, but about the crucial survival skill of Information Literacy, the ability to think and do problem solving in seeking out understanding. This is a lifelong learning issue.

The question on the table isn't just about some staff positions. It is this: will the bright kids with a future, who are advantaged by a culture that values learning and the best job and business opportunities in the Infomation Age economy be in -- Indonesia? Or Albuquerque? What of the future? Communities and countries that fail to invest in an Information Age future will be relegated to irrelevant backwater status.

Staffing levels are already producing stress, because the public is placing more demand on libraries. More families are bringing their children in, and more people are coming in who exhibit stress and need somewhere to go to vent. Librarians are actually getting yelled at by people who lose it, and being treated to less courtesy in general than one would like to see.

A staff that is already stretched too thin because people have to work extra to make up for people not there to fill positions, gets stretched even more when it all reaches the breaking point and people become ill as a result, taking time off even if it is without pay. Decreasing existing staff will certainly not help this.

Many are unaware that fully qualified professionals with great experience are being faced with the choice of working as temps at an unskilled rate of pay with no benefits -- or having no pay and no job at all. That is already a way of filling in the staffing without hiring staff.

Librarians are the First Responders, the heroes of the effort to promote literacy and to build an Information Age economy and society of the future right along with teachers. They are not likely to complain about their lot and because they are also highly disciplined people, they suck it up and just work harder.

The rest of us should pay attention to what is going on and should chime in to support librarians.

Take Action: Contact your Albuquerque City Councilor (see district map) and Mayor Richard Berry and urge them not to cut any more jobs from the Albuquerque/Benalillo County library system. The budget is proposed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council.

This is a guest blog by Stuart Heady. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

April 14, 2011 at 03:06 PM in Books, Children and Families, City of Albuquerque, Education, Guest Blogger | Permalink

Comments

Here is some more on the library situation on a web page set up by a library advocacy group.

http://supportabclibraries.org/news.html

Posted by: Stuart Heady | Apr 14, 2011 5:02:02 PM

Stuart,

Thank you so much for your guest blog! We all need to contact the city and protest any more cuts.

I volunteer one day a week at the special collections, working on genealogical input to the computer and helping patrons do genealogy. I see how hard the staff works and how short handed they are. They are running around like crazy trying to cover all the desks.

Today I was there for a lecture, and the main library was a beehive.

People were lined up waiting to use the computers. So many people can't afford a home computer and the library is their access to the world.

The San Pedro library near me is always busy, and the families in that neighborhood rely on that library as their book source, especially for their children.

So please support Stuart's blog, check out the link which shows library staffing is down 25% in the last few years-- while usage is way up.

Cheryl Harris

Posted by: Cheryl Harris | Apr 16, 2011 2:54:51 PM

Like everything else, plenty of work and jobs to do but, no money to pay people to do it.

Posted by: qofdisks | Apr 17, 2011 12:43:59 AM

It is not true that there is no money. Supposedly there is a 12 million dollar down payment on a river walk development by the Rio Grande under consideration on the theory that future tourism is more important to economic development. Ultimately this will cost over a hundred million, most likely. It is a question of priorities.

Does economic development mean cutting the means to creating a culture of life long learning that is part and parcel of the Information Age economy of the future?

Posted by: Stuart Heady | Apr 19, 2011 4:37:19 PM