If We Can Put A Man on the Moon

January 7th, 2005 · 4 Comments
by Booksquare

We do not believe books are going away — though, the more we think on the topic, it’s not so much the books as the stories our species craves. We love our stories. That many of them are contained in books is a major boon to natural readers. In a way, other methods of delivering stories, television for example, are just expansions of sitting our the campfire. Only the husbands are fatter and the wives clearly married down.

Libraries haven’t been just about books since, well, the inception of libraries. They serve many purposes in their communities, and the fact that the Salinas public libraries are closing their doors is a huge blow to that city. Our society has developed a fear of taxes, of contributing to common needs, and this was reflected by the recent election in Salinas. Voters chose against libraries. That we believe they didn’t fully understand the consequences of their actions is beside the point.

Just as funding for libraries is scarce, so is funding for education. It has always been our belief that the amount spent on teaching children and adults should exceed the amount spent on the military, but this is not the belief of most. But we’ve entered into an era where costs greatly exceed revenues, from the federal government on down (it is, as they say, trickle-down economics). The good news is that individuals in communities should have more money to spend on making their cities and towns better places; the bad news is that’s not likely to happen.

David Kipen of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that the time has come to get creative about library funding. He’s proposing sharing the wealth, so to speak, and at first glance, it’s not such a bad idea. Except for the part where the powers-that-be will never go for it. Even if libraries were just about books, they’d be worthy of serious creative effort. That they’re so much more than books is even greater incentive. The question is: how can we preserve libraries for future generations?

File Under: Square Pegs

4 responses so far ↓

  • Susan Gable // Jan 8, 2005 at 9:28 am

    Two other Erie-are romance authors and I are going to be joining forces with our local Friends of the Library during their Valentine booksale, hoping to draw more publicity to the plight of libraries, and get more people out to support the Friends. Get them buying more books. Hopefully this effort will be a success.

    I’m not sure how I feel about this concept of “equalizing” the funding, etc. for the libraries, though. If the people of Salina want the library, why isn’t their Friends group working to raise the money they need? Why should other Friends groups be forced to work for libraries in other communities? No, I’m not into socialism in any form, and this sounds kinda socialistic to me.

    Yes, libraries are needed. Yes, they should have money. But I’m for local control and funding.

    I do think that an on-line library (there was a recent article about this) would be a great service to readers. I do wonder about the impact on writers, though. If one copy of the book can be purchased for the whole country, well, that’s going to make writing even less profitable than it already is. Yikes.

    I’d love to see some of our very wealthy out there (say, even some of the big sports stars) donate some money to library support. Literacy is a worthy cause, but once a person CAN read, they need to have access to things TO read.

    And that’s enough library bathering for a snowy Saturday morning. Although I will add as a final note that my local writing group was kicked out of meeting at one of the local bookstores (because they wanted to put in more shelves of books, go figure!) but has found a new meeting place at the local library. So yes, libraries are about more than just books.

  • booksquare // Jan 8, 2005 at 11:14 am

    What a cool Valentine’s project — if I could attend, I would. I like long drives…

    I’m not sure what the solution is, but, in California at least, the current system is not workable. Salinas is a particularly egregious example — not only is it suffering from the wide range of budget cuts other cities face (and this won’t improve for a few years), but it’s also a very poor community to begin with. I’m not sure it’s a place with an active Friends organization. A large percentage of the residents are field laborers or working in agriculture in some manner. In a way, nothing has changed since Grapes of Wrath.

    However, we are smart people and smart people come up with good ideas. The more we throw out there…

  • Anonymous // Jan 11, 2005 at 10:59 am

    I don’t believe reading itself is going away, but sadly, libraries might be. I, as a 16 yearold, am in a prime position to see where the next generation is going, and I am happy to say that we love to read. However, we dislike public libraries and tend to avoid them. The main problem is that their are simply too many restrictions in public libraries such as internet restrictions and waiting lists for books. Where we go instead to read and converse about books is the local Barnes and Noble. Every night of the week (including Fridays) you can find a good crowd of highschool students at Barnes and Noble drinking coffee, looking at magazines, and comparing notes on books. Many might say that this is bad because libraries are for everybody, even people who can’t afford books. But I have many times read an entire book with in barnes and noble. 🙂

  • booksquare // Jan 11, 2005 at 7:55 pm

    Very interesting perspective. And boy do I hear you about the waiting lists — it’s a sad truth that libraries will never be able to have enough copies of very popular books. In order to remain viable in the future, libraries will have to innovate. As for restrictions, that’s a tough one. Librarians don’t like them, but sometimes there are other forces at work…

    Now as for reading a whole book, I’m a bit of an author’s rights freak, and, so, will gently remind you that no royalties are paid on unpurchased books. This is probably not your number one priority right now, but someday…