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We don’t need no stinkin’ books…or do we?

February 13th, 2011 · No Comments

Feb. 17 UPDATE- The Santa Cruz Library Joint Powers Board put off a vote on any of four proposals under consideration for the library system’s future. Two of the proposals called for closing multiple library branches. However, after hearing public testimony at its Feb. 14 meeting, the board instead directed a subcommittee to come up with a compromise. The board is to meet again March 7 to consider the compromise proposal. In a statement, Felton Library Friends, a group supportive of the threatened library branch in Felton, California, expressed hope that a compromise proposal would keep open all of system’s ten library branches.

Feb. 13 -SANTA CRUZ COUNTY- I used to wake up at night worrying about the misdoings of George W. Bush. With this recession, my worries have shifted closer to home. Our county library system, responding to a diminishing flow of tax dollars, is about to vote on a cost-cutting proposal which may close several community-based library branches, including one in our valley. If this plan takes effect, the nearest professionally-staffed library will be five and a half miles away.

We don’t live in a metropolis. Our town lies in a rural area which only recently achieved public bus service for one of its outlying communities. Before that, some of the area’s students had to hitchhike to get home from high school. Near the center of our tiny town, there is a library maintained on a volunteer basis. Though I’m sure the volunteers do what they can, whenever I pass by, it isn’t open. Now the library in the nearest town to the south may suffer a similar fate.

We talk a lot about civil society but not so often about what goes into to making and maintaining one. Like public education, a library is essential. It’s a meeting place where ideas are important, a setting where where elders can tutor struggling students, where kids can research their term papers, and where the unemployed can use the Internet connection to apply for jobs. (And that last is especially important: At Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2010, local residents hoping for charity turkeys at the mission on the main highway had to stand in a long line to get one. It’s not likely they’ll have the spare fuel to drive long distances or excess funds to spend at online bookstores.)

I hope the library board considers the following: A short while back, we were all snickering about Texas, where extremist officials voted to take evolution out of the school textbooks. Those Texans must be eyeing us here in Santa Cruz County with astonished wonder, now. For without a library, right-wing ideologues won’t have to make the effort to ban an idea or censor a book to keep it out of circulation: Why bother to ban a book, when the library has already been closed down?

© Shelley Buck, 2011. Used with permission.

Tags: American Grotesque · Op-ed

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