Thursday, June 25, 2009

Libraries At Risk

I don't usually get political here in the Small World, (could be because I married a man at polar opposites to my own views, but really, we've managed that with only a couple drunken debates ending in tears, and besides, that's a whole other story.) but when it comes to libraries, I tend to get a little passionate.
There's a whole family myth about the fact that we had to switch libraries when I was growing up because I read all the books in the children's section of one library. At one time, I had no less than five different library cards in my wallet. I lived for summer reading club season, and the thrill of seeing all the books I'd read listed out on a paper folder. I made nearly daily trips to the library down the street the summer I finally got done with grad school and could read whatever I wanted.
Today, my children and I are extremely regular visitors to our local library. We have participated in story time, have held impromptu playdates in the children's section, and once a week we carry home a bag full of books, DVDs and CDs. O. is so excited about being enrolled in the summer reading club this year that he asks almost every day whether we've read enough yet for the next "surprise." Last week, one of the children's librarians stopped to talk to O. because she remembered that he had been at the preschool camp that she visited. Nice people, and a whole treasure trove of resources and programming that concretely enrich our lives.
That's why I feel an actual physical reaction of sadness and anxiety every time I think about the budget cuts that are scheduled to be approved in the next few days at the state level. The plan is to cut library funding by 50%. Fifty percent. Wow. Twenty branches of the Cincinnati Public Library System are projected to close if this goes through. While I understand that in this time of economic difficulty, the money must be cut somewhere, it seems to me that libraries are even MORE important in times such as these.
The Cincinnati and Hamilton County Library has information on their website about these cuts, and ways to contact state representatives -- you can email straight from the website. If you're an Ohio resident, please click over there and make your support for libraries known. You can also visit
While I'm on the subject, I've been meaning to share some of the great things I've recently discovered at the library, each of which is potentially threatened by this legislation. I'm continually amazed at all the ways libaries work so hard to change and grow along with available technology and to meet the needs and wants of its patrons. They are an invaluable resource to our communities, and need our support now more than ever.

  • Book Page -- This newspaper style publication has been available at my local branch for the last three months or so. It's basically a publisher's advertising tool that lists books that are just coming out, along with author interviews, and columns that recommend new and noteworthy titles. I have really been enjoying having this concrete way to help me get new ideas for what to read next or to add to my wish list. Almost all of the titles are available to me via the the request system at the library, so as long as I'm willing to wait a bit, I can get a copy of whichever one I want.
  • Playaway -- Up until recently, I was not the owner of any sort of digital listening device. (J. finally took pity on me, or got tired of my obnoxious whining about it, and got me an ipod nano for Mother's Day. One of the best gifts EVER.) With two small children and an unfortunate television habit, I don't find as much time to read as I would like. I always thought that if I had a means to LISTEN to books, I could do it while exercising (HA!) or cleaning, or whatever. However, my Sony Walkman is long disappeared. Then I discovered the playaway in the audiobook section of my library. It's small, ipod sized device that holds one book only. When you check it out, it comes with the battery and everything -- all you do is plug headphones into it, and a book is ready for you to listen to. Very slick. I had some issues with the fact that you can't lock the buttons or easily rewind to the middle of a chapter if you did accidentally bump a button, but it was a pretty cool, portable way to listen to a book, and I'd recommend it if you're still without an MP3 player, or even just looking to get your audiobooks for free.
  • The Ohio E-Book Project -- If you DO have an ipod or an MP3 player, here is a resource, available to you via your library, for downloading audio books FOR FREE onto your device. You check them out using your library card, and have access to them for two weeks, just as you would any other book you check out from the library. Amazing. This is not the most user friendly of sites, and there are a number of steps involved in downloading the software you will need to download your files, and to get itunes to recognize the files once you have them. Also, it seems to me that there are not quite as many titles available in MP3 format as others, but I'm still pretty new at figuring this system out. It seems the best way to get what you want to read is to place a hold for a title until it becomes available. Pretty cool, and FREE. (those of you in other states, this same technology is most likely available to you. Go here to search for a library system that uses it near you, or check your library's website for a link to an ebook program.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks to your Governer.


mep said...

I too have many happy memories of visiting that library "down the street" from your old place!

I'm not an Ohio resident anymore (sniff sniff), but I agree with you that libraries are so important, institutions worth protecting.

At least once a week, I visit a branch of the Chicago Public Library and don't know what I would do without it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I couldn't agree more.

Thanks for the link to audio stuff. I am definitely going to check that out.


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