– Eleanor Crumblehulme
I did not become a librarian to argue all day about money. I long for the days when it wasn't this way. We are at a crossroads for libraries - at least the ones in Lancaster County. The steps we take in the next year or so will change the landscape of library service. It has been several years since the state funding cut and many libraries have been living off the fumes of the discretionary accounts, if they even had them. I truly believe that if this trend continues, small town libraries will close. It'll be too late then to really save it. And right now, there are many libraries on life support.
Libraries can't run without professional employees.
People are sometimes shocked when they find out that the library has paid employees. When I tell them that librarians must have a master's degree, many just stare at me like I've asked them to do long division in their head. These folks are also sometimes the ones who claim that public libraries could be run by volunteers. I love my volunteers, but getting them to commit to a time period each week is often overshadowed by trips to Florida and Europe. Their grandchildren come into town and they take off. And that's what retirement is supposed to be. But that's not going to keep a library open.
In Pennsylvania, librarians are certified by the state. Prerequisites include an master's degree in Library Science from an ALA-accredited university. So...we're looking at a person who has spent at least 6 years in college. In addition, this venture is not cheap and library school students often walk away from graduation with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. That may seem like a small price to pay for a professional job in the field, but then you'll learn you can't pay anything but small prices because your pay is going to suck.
After learning this information, many people ask me why on earth anyone would want to be a librarian with the reality of the salary limitations. And I wonder this myself. It's hard to believe that anyone would be willing to volunteer their time each week to work at the library. They have to be able to stand and bend and lift. They have to be good with the public. And if they want to work the desk, they have to go through at least 9 months of training. Anyone interested in committing their time?
Libraries can't afford to provide anything but excellent services.
There is absolutely no reason why substandard library service should ever be accepted. A community's information needs should not be overlooked as a luxury.
Libraries can't be underestimated.
Libraries are the only place a person can go to get free, confidential, unbiased information. We do not tell people what you read and we do not judge you for your questions or choices. This is very rare in today's world.
Author Doris Lessing said, "With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates. It is the most democratic of institutions because no one – but no one at all – can tell you what to read and when and how."
A well-funded, well-run, adequately-staffed library can affect change, create meaningful dialogue and foster lifelong learning. You really shouldn't mess with that. Librarians are social agents, bridging an education gap present in every community. And, even if you pay us nothing and give us budget woes that keep us up late at night wringing our hands, we won't give up. We're not stubborn...libraries are just that important.