A forerunner of the current “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” this Depression era sing-songy phrase describes the way many folks are learning to manage their money during the current recession. Television, cable, clothes dryer, car — things that used to seem essential are open to redefinition as luxuries.
You already know that the library helps fill gaps caused by a reduced family budget: borrow rather than rent films; check books out instead of buying them. CLP also provides important services. At Main we host literacy classes of the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. Our library workers teach beginning computer skills, assist with job searches in our Job & Career Education Center, and provide homework help to children, teen, college, and adult learners. Some of these services take the form of scheduled programs, but everyday we work with library patrons individually, helping not only answer questions, but sometimes, and more importantly, formulating questions.
Our library is busier than ever. More people need more help. It’s a pattern libraries have seen before. The following paragraph from another urban library’s Web site could describe any Depression-era city library.
The Depression pummeled The Seattle Public Library. Jobless men seeking refuge crowded into the Central Library. Those looking for work or diversion snapped up library books at unprecedented levels, sending circulation past 4 million for the first time in 1932. Yet, at the same time, Library budgets shrunk precipitously, forcing layoffs of employees and termination of programs. The Library was caught in a painful double bind seen during tough economic times – soaring demands and evaporating resources.
Our library’s story mirrors the plight of libraries during the Great Depression. Governor Rendell’s proposed 2009-2010 budget cuts 5.1% from state support for library services. This includes a 2.3% cut to local libraries, as well as significant cuts to such services as shared databases (POWER Library), interlibrary loan, and Ask Here PA, the state’s virtual reference service.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”
Use the library. Wear out our books. But don’t do without us. You can help raise awareness of your library’s vital community role. We need your help to restore funding for public libraries to 2008-2009 levels. Please visit CLP’s Advocacy Web page to learn how you can help.