Shortly after I graduated and left my hometown, voters failed the millage that was keeping the libraries open. Faced with a bare-bones budget, several library branches closed, including the one I had worked for. When the millage passed a year later, those that had been involved in the cuts were hired back, and I was lucky enough to get back in as well. There was a sense of coming home for most of us – we were finally back in a position to do something for our community. As part of the massive factory closures in the auto industry, our area had faced a serious economic downturn. Sure, our libraries could be considered a symptom of that, and everyone was losing their jobs, but there was something different. We wanted to come back so that we could help alleviate the stress for others who had been in our position. We wanted to show that libraries were worth the spending, especially when things got tough.
Miami is a much-publicized, much-observed, and much-criticized situation. On a tight budget, something needs cut, and city commissioners have turned to library system cuts as a way to make up some of that money. Not just cuts though – deep and lasting wounds to the library system, and more widely, the library’s positive impact on the community.
Recently, a Save the Miami-Dade Public Library System tumblr has been started, and this particular post caught my eye. From the introduction:
“After Commissioner Zapata’s cold words to a man who defended his library, “you don’t care about the county, you only care about your job” a library employee felt the co-worker’s pain and wants the public and County Commissioners to know…
We all care about the county and we have proven this through deeds and not just words.
The little that I have done is by no means exceptional and while the details of the extras we do vary from person to person, what I write is largely representative of library staff including that employee who was insulted.”
The open letter goes on to show a few of the examples of overtime worked, contributions made, and downright self-sacrificing on the part of the library staff. Now, this may not be the case for all library workers, but I know that many of the librarians and library staff I have worked with fit into this picture, right on down to pages.
Most every library worker I know is like this. We like our jobs, sure, and who doesn’t? But we don’t pick this line of work – particularly in public libraries, particularly in cities that have demonstrated at best an apathy toward the library at a governmental level – because we want an easy out.
Library work isn’t an easy out. Passionate people take too-few dollars and turn them into as many services as they can. Libraries are our way of trying to actually create equal opportunity instead of just paying lip service to it. And many of us believe so strongly in that goal that we will give far beyond what our job description asks us to.