Don't Gut Our Library!

February 8,2012

Like many communities across the United States, my town, Englewood, New Jersey, is currently considering deep cuts (approximately 26 percent) to the budget for our public library. Here's the body of an e-mail I wrote yesterday to remind the mayor and my councilman of the library's importance to our community:

I am writing in advance of tonight’s council meeting to register my dismay at the proposed cuts to the budget of the Englewood Public Library. I’ve been a resident of Englewood for 25 years, and have seen over and over the importance that the library has to our community. Just last November, when my home on the East Hill was without power for four days, I was one of hundreds of residents of Englewood who sought light, heat, and Internet access at the library. Since I work in a home office, the library was essential in allowing me to remain productive during those “dark days.”

As an author and editor, the library is crucial to me as a research tool. Even in the age of the Internet, there is no substitute for being in a building surrounded by books and other resources, including trained, helpful librarians. But the library’s importance goes beyond the needs of any individual. An article in the September 2011 issue of The Council Chronicle, published by the National Council of Teachers of English, reported that, “A number of studies have appeared in the last few years indicating that access to books not only has a positive effect on reading achievement, but also that the positive impact of access is as large as the negative impact of poverty. This suggests that a good library can offset the effects of poverty on reading achievement.” Studies also show that the better their school and public libraries, the higher students score on state, national, and international reading tests.

This is a dynamic time in the worlds of publishing and information technology, and communities throughout the country are still figuring out how to incorporate digital books and Internet access into their libraries. Before radically reducing our library’s budget, Englewood should determine exactly how this important resource can be adapted to meet our community’s needs. No less a digital guru than Bill Gates once said, “I’d be happy if I could think that the role of the library was sustained and even enhanced in the age of the computer.” Let’s not act to diminish our community by gutting one of the most important resources we have.

Thank you.

Sue Macy