|Libraries’ importance goes beyond the books|
|Cuts in fragile areas would prove devastating|
|Published Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:08 pm|
Mecklenburg County’s fiscal crisis is back for another round of library cuts, and it’s turning neighborhoods into rivals. The Future of the Library Task Force is recommending shifting funds from community branches to regional sites that serve more people and would make up an expected $2 million deficit.
Regional branch hours could possibly be extended as well, but it comes at a price: up to six local branches would be shuttered, leaving some neighbors without access to books, computers and a gathering place for community groups and the dialogue they engender.
An unfortunate byproduct is the competition between neighborhoods to keep their libraries open. Communities such as Myers Park and Hickory Grove have been placed on the chopping block while branches in three economically fragile areas – Scaleybark, West Boulevard and Sugar Creek were left off. At issue is usage: The six branches on the cut list generate more traffic than Scaleybark, West Boulevard and Sugar Creek. The math is simple at first blush – less use equals less interest, and lagging branches deserve the ax.
While the numbers suggest closing less-visited branches, they don’t tell a complete picture. These libraries are located in neighborhoods with crushing economic issues from lack of employment opportunities to educational challenges in public schools. In order to break the cycle, residents need access to information that can put them on track to academic achievement, job readiness and business ownership. That’s why these libraries, as economic engines, should remain untouched.
Shutting down libraries is an unpleasant business because so many people enjoy and use them, but without extra money to keep all branches operating, there are going to be cuts. We recommend sparing neighborhoods that are already bearing the brunt of reductions in county services.
|Sounds like instead of a library, those neighborhoods need an internet cafe.|
|Posted on March 18, 2011|
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