Sunday, October 05, 2008
The city's budget crunch and how it affects the Madison Public Library and its branches
It's a small. cozy neighborhood branch library -- a beacon of knowledge and community when it's open in the evening. People in the Monroe Street neighborhood love their branch and defend it fiercely. It's also vulnerable during times of tight budgets, because it's one of the smaller branches, and located between two big ones just a few miles away. There had been fears that the new city budget might force it to close.
Cities all over the country are slashing library budgets, hours and branches as they cope with tight budgets. It's a real test of a community's -- or a nation's -- priorities. It's a quality of life issue -- and so much more. For many people, the library provides their only access to needed information resources (for example, people without computers who need to use a computer to apply for a job). It's hard to imagine a democracy open to all that doesn't support a strong library system.
I've long been proud of Madison's public library system. While other cities have built magnificent new central libraries and then turned around and helped pay for their facility costs and staffing by slashing their branch systems, Madison has maintained its strong neighborhood branches. I'm even more proud of Madison now, assuming Mayor Dave's new budget stands up: It calls for maintaining current library hours throughout the city and keeping all branches open.