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Closing Libraries

July 29, 1993

* Hooray for Huell Howser and his column on libraries (Commentary, July 19), for his TV program on visiting libraries on KCET and for his eloquent appeal for libraries at the Board of Supervisors budget hearing on July 13.

Howser is sounding an alarm. And I hope it will be heard by citizens as well as the Board of Supervisors. For libraries are facing a 50% budget cut, forcing 43 county libraries to close. If these libraries are shut down, where will children find books to read, or older students find research materials? Where will the literacy program go for adults who are learning to read? Where will businesses go for information? And the public go for reading?

If the essence of democracy depends on an informed citizenry, then people must have free access to information. Where can we find it if not in the libraries?

Libraries are not merely a luxury to be discarded or shut down in lean times. They are the lifeblood of a democratic society--essential to the health and well-being of our communities. In this affluent society, surely we can find the money to maintain our libraries.



* Every Monday and Thursday after work, I travel an extra couple of bus stops to the Felipe de Neve Library at 6th and Rampart. The librarians here have worked very hard to make this little storefront library into an invaluable community resource. It's an oasis of sanity in the middle of a sometimes-crazy neighborhood, and I'd miss it terribly if it closed.

L.A. needs to open more libraries instead of closing the few it already has!


Los Angeles

* That public libraries in Southern California will close this summer angers and saddens Howser. Criminals, he writes, have won because as a society we spend more tax dollars on incarcerating lawbreakers than on providing libraries for decent people. It is ironic that criminals have easy access to fully staffed and adequately funded prison libraries while law-abiding citizens have ever decreasing access to public libraries.

As a public school librarian, I am also angered and saddened because school libraries across our state have been and are now closing at an ever-increasing rate. Jailed juvenile offenders have much greater access to libraries than do students attending public schools.

We cannot maintain our civility and world leadership if access to books and information is limited by lack of adequate funding. We are living in a fool's paradise if we think libraries are expendable.



* There are certain institutions in our society that I affectionately think of as "future oriented." Investing in them yields no immediate benefit, but enriches posterity instead. Promoting a comprehensive public library system doesn't instantly elevate the GDP. Instead it helps create a better educated, sharper, smarter community many years down the line, a work force that would attract potential business.

The effect of pruning funds and resources away from our libraries isn't always felt immediately. But take heed, for we have already cut down to the bone and are now threatening to cut the bone itself, leaving our future too weak to stand on its own two feet. If this is supposed to be the land of opportunity, why are we restricting the opportunity to learn?



* Senate Bill 566, to provide a special funding district to keep L.A. County libraries open, will be before the Assembly in Sacramento when it reconvenes in August. With plans to close 43 out of 87 libraries, support of this bill by all citizens is a necessity.

Paying approximately $20 per year to help keep your local library open is a small price for all the services that the library offers to citizens of all ages. Libraries are one of the most positive services in our society. We cannot allow thousands of people to be denied access to them. Please call or write your Assembly person and Gov. Pete Wilson to encourage them to support this bill. We cannot let our libraries die and put more people out of work.



* I regard the closing of libraries with dismay. I suggest that we save our libraries by charging for library cards; $24 a year wouldn't hurt most people and would save jobs. The non-reading public couldn't protest this because they would not be charged for a facility they don't use. Perhaps wealthy people could donate cards for poor students and perhaps everyone would value books more because they had to pay for the privilege of reading.



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