For people who aren't library users, libraries may seem like a waste of money. Our small town is hurting. Library non-users here and in other communities often think that cutting library hours or eliminating libraries completely would be a great answer to all the money problems faced by their communites. WRONG! The way libraries work, the money that funds your local library belongs to libraries. If your local library closes, the money that used to go to it now gets put back into the pot and spread out among OTHER LIBRARIES. Close your library and your taxes will not go down, the city will not have more money to spend on other things; things will be just the same as they were--you just won't have a library in your town.
I do not have a library sciences degree. I don't understand the ins and outs of the law. I couldn't even begin to comprehend how the "powers that be" spend/allocate/receive money. All I know is that the library is "safe". Yes, they can cut our budgets by a bit. Yes, we may have to make some cut backs on what services we offer. Yes, we won't be getting EVERY James Patterson book that comes out. (What?? He puts his name on at least 10 a year lately.) Yes, we don't have any art-work on the walls. Yes, we're hoping for better times ahead. No, we didn't get into the library business for the big paychecks.
With the recent recession, we have seen an increase in library usage. When people come in for the first time in decades, they're often surprised by what the library has to offer free of charge. Computer usage, books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, audio books, and generally someone who is excited to help you find what you're looking for. (Not always, mind you--we have off days too.) Your taxes help fund all of this. You already bought that movie. Granted now it's stored at the library and anyone can check it out. You already have that book. Granted, it has a bar code on it that gets scanned every time someone wants to read it. You already bought that newspaper. Granted, it wasn't delivered to your door. Why are you buying that audio book again? Granted, you may have to download some software before loading it onto your MP3 player.
February is Love Your Library month. Money is tight. Maybe you can't make any sort of monetary donation to your library, but there are other things you can do. Send off an email to your local/state/federal government officials expressing your support for local libraries. They need to understand how important libraries are to our communities. Stop in for a chat about what the library means to you and any improvements you would like to see. Ask if there is anything you can do to help. Come to a board meeting and see how it all works. Spend an afternoon seeing what the kids do in here after they're done with school.
Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries. I know I would be in a world of hurt if I no longer had a library to use!
I'll get off my soap-box now.