in recent months, good news about libraries have graced the pages of newspapers across the country. It gives hope for that their is a bright future for libraries. For the doubters, who have long since decided that libraries are archaic institutions, this should be proof that libraries are a valuable asset in the community. For those who have been fighting to save libraries, small and large, welcome the victory but have known all along a community without a library is a community on life support. This is hardly a time to retreat, pack up and go home. Instead there are many more battles that lie ahead. This is a good opportunity to look at some of the bigger "wins" and take note of what it took to win the battle.
Los Angeles' libraries were facing dire times. Not only were libraries closing, but popular TV night time hosts were making jokes about the lack of need for for the libraries. Jay Leno, had stuck his foot in his mouth that night and promptly received the ire of many library advocates, (among them American Library Association). This lead to his apology the next night. In reality, the Los Angeles libraries were severing their citizens quite well on a day to day basis, but like other libraries, city budget battles were placing them on the chopping blocks. In March of 2011 the citizens of Los Angeles voted YES to Measure L, which would keep the libraries funded and open. How did this measure pass when everyone is aware of LA's financial status, not to mention California's financial mess? Key groups coming together for a common goal. The combination of a $200.000 financial donation from the the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and a coalition of library advocates, teachers, and librarians who campaigned for the passage of Measure L, gave strength to the failing libraries. Make no mistake, this was and is a big win for libraries all across the United States.
On the other coast, New York City to be precise, the same battles facing Los Angeles' libraries were in play here as well. On the iconic steps of the New York City library, library supports gave the library a "hug" to show their support for the library budget restoration. Days later, Mayor Bloomberg must have gotten the message for the "311" calls that were made by library advocates demanding that the Big Apple did not lose it's core service,namely the library. In New York City's case the the Save NYC Libraries Postcard Campaign sent the message loud and clear to city council members about citizen's needs for the library. Over 4,000 postcards were written, collected and handed to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer on June 17, 2011. If the 4,000 postcards didn't bring home the message the 200,000 signatures on a corresponding petition drove the point home. Budget battles never die, they live to fight for another day. Rest assured NYC library advocates will be calling on their supporters when libraries are on the chopping blocks.
Last but not least, Troy Public Library, in southeastern Michigan, won a huge battle on August 2 to save the library. The history of the mileages that were put on the ballot over the past year is so convoluted that it could read like a children's book "The Library That Could". The first mileage failed miserably due to the propaganda that tax payers didn't want or need more taxes. The second milage attempt failed because city council decided that confusing voters with four different library proposals would be the ideal way of "informing" the public. Not! The thidr attempt was a straight yes or no vote to continue funding the library for five years with the residents seeing a $68 increase in property taxes to cover the expense of the library. The staff of Troy Public Library should be commended for informing their patrons in clear terms what losing a library would mean to their daily lives. The win on August 2, was the "third" charm and all of Southeastern Michigan let go of a collective sigh of relief. Losing the library would have meant that Troy citizens would not have access to local libraries borrowing privileges. The city of Troy and many like them around Michigan have already lost too much in the recession. key services such as children's programming, internet , and job search resources would have been another slam on residents.
Libraries are beginning to win the fight to remain open. The only way to continue the winning streak is to gather as much "team" support for libraries as possible. Not to mention a marketing campaign that not only informs the public about the value of libraries but also invites them to see what the library has to offer. Voters who oppose library funding most likely have not been in a library for years. It's time to bring them back in order to show that libraries are not archaic, but thriving with old and new resources that bring information to them by traditional and digital means. For those voters who love libraries and consistently vote YES to library mileages, invite them also to be the voice of the library that the community needs to hear. They are and will always be our best cheerleaders!