Library Cutbacks: A Modest Proposal
While I’ve busy with other things in life and work in the library, this blog has been not up to date with information I intended to post. I wanted this blog to talk about best practices using technology and discuss other library issues. However, the information delivered to me yesterday has prompted me to make this post.
“In these tough, economic times….” blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard this phrase countless times through out the day and we are feeling not just the pinch but a serious purple nurple. While the news was already proposed some time ago about a 5% pay cut, we have more cost cutting items like the elimination of 142 full-time and 124 part-time library positions. Other county measures are being taken to reduce the budget’s shortfall of about $400 million dollars but I’m just focusing on just the library since this will have a more direct impact to my family and myself.
Coming from a business major background, I understand the needs of the company trying to stay afloat through tough economic times. Controlling cost is the main struggle for companies on a daily basis. The cost of office supplies, equipment, and staff are things that can be controlled internally. When the hammer comes down on cost saving measures, staff /personnel must be reduced in payroll or the number of staff members reduced overall. Since most of the budget goes into paying staff salaries which could range from 60% to 75% any reduction of these percentage and poof!, the company is back in black. Cutting jobs are always the first line of controlling expenses because of the immediate effects. However, when it comes to the library services, you are cutting off your nose to spite the face. This is not to say to those who work in more high demanding and dangerous county positions should not be exempt but the library offers a service to the public like no other.
The main goal of the library aside from having materials available to be read, watched, or listened is to serve their community’s need. The digital divide is not just a concept from a textbook or on a blog. I have come across hundreds of people who do not have access to technology like a simple computer and Internet service. The library may be their only option to have without scounging around for other avenues of low cost access. Even worse, many do not have the necessary skills to manage a computer on their own. What other public service offers assistance when asked or offer computer classes in computer literacy and without incurring fees? The simple fact of having computers in libraries serves the community needs from kids who have to do research on the Internet to adults who needs to look for work or submit a resume to get a job. This is just the tipping of the iceberg of public service through the library. But enough of this as I may be already preaching to the choir who are reading this entry. No, this proposed, and do emphasize proposed cutbacks has to be finalized by this September and I have yet to scratch the surface on how I truly feel on this subject. I can put my thoughts, feelings, and parallel them to scifi movies, tv, or other pop cultural references and connect to those who are not part of my library system. In the following paragraphs, stop here if you are planning to watch Torchwood Series 3 Children of Earth, War of the World, and The Mist as there will be many references and spoilers ahead.
Having watched the Torchwood series over two days, I was left almost speechless by what I saw. The basic plot of Children of Earth dealt with aliens called 456 who have come to Earth and demand 10% of all the children in the world. The government failed to challenge these aliens as they were vastly superior to us. However, the government gave in to the demands and then had to formulate a plan as to how they would select the children. They tried different parameters but it boiled down to those failing schools who had the poor academic performing students. The rationale was almost logical since they believed that these kids would have been just a burden on Earth anyway. Captain Jack, the hero of this series, tried to fight against the aliens by not giving any children to the aliens. “You pick on one of us, you pick on all of us,” toted Jack to the aliens. The in fighting and the backstabbing and the breaking down of acceptable social behavior went out the window. I don’t want to say my library will behave that way but deciding who should stay or be let go sounds eerily familiar.
We are being asked to accepted a cutback, no cost of living increase, and a reduction in staff. How are these people going to be selected: by seniority, performance evaluations or will the selection be of those who have been on someone shit list and their name goes right on the top of the chopping block lists? There are those like myself who rather keep everyone, good and bad, accept the paycut and have the service hours reduced kinda like the Captain Jack mentality. Unfortunately, this crisis of the budget will give the excuse to clean our house. Like Captain Jack, I have seen this happen before and it will happen again.
Years before I worked for the library system, I used to work for Cunard Line. Cunard is famous for the QE2 and now the QM2. I had worked for the company for almost 4 years. Almost at the very beginning of when I was hired, there was rumors about major layoffs. I just go this job and felt certain that I would be the first to be let go. The old saying last hired, first fired was not true in my case. While there was layoffs, the company decided on removing the less producing employees as their parameter. Needless to say, I hated to see the people being let go after working for the company for years and he is me only a few weeks. Survivors guilt anyone? Now jump forward a couple of years to the end of my employment with Cunard and the tables were turned.
Since this company was owned by the Carnival Corporation, there was an re-organizational shift when they merged with P&O. The Cunard Line base of operations was going to be moved from Miami to Los Angeles. The rumors had quickly spread and moral dropped drastically. Once the information was confirmed and plans were finalized, there was very little the employees could do. But before the confirmation, the rumors made everyone uneasy and very uncertain about their futures. Same thing can be applied to my situation at the library.
Do you remember the movie War of the Worlds based on Orson Welles radio play which freaked people because they believed the new to be real? There was one family where the father was trying escape the city with his family. He had packed a gun for safety and wound up in an expressway tunnel. The family was on their last leg and the father saw this thing with lights making loud noise heading their way. The father was prepared to carry out killing his own family out of desperation until he realized that it was the police at the very last moment.
Or if you saw the Mist and the hearbreaking ending. Sorry for the spoiler; a father and son and three other people were in a truck trying to escape for the creatures in the Mist. As the car dies of gas, you can hear the creatures but couldn’t see them. He also had a gun but only four bullets. Unlike the father above, he did kill his son and the other survivors out of desperation. He cried for them and for himself as he was now stuck with the Mist. As the noise grew louder, it turned out to be an army tank, army personnel, and transport trucks of other survivors. If the father had just waited a few moments more, they would have all been safe.
As I finish up the blog entry, I too must prepare my proverbial gun and take steps to protect my family. However, as the moral will go down rapidly as each day passes until September in the library system, I must remember not to act irrationally and help others. As desperate as times will get, not matter how bleak others may feel, we will get through this. Until information is confirmed can the proper action be taken. I understand the desperation these men felt but I’ve then through this before and I will get this again.
I believe in this phrase; this too shall pass.