I was outraged to read that the Cobb County Commission chairman has proposed closing 13 of the 17 public libraries in the county to help make up for the budget shortfall! (Read the whole plan here as well as some alternative ideas.)
“A plan by Cobb County’s Commission chairman would include a tax increase, close all but four of the county’s libraries and require across the board cuts in county departments to close a $31. 5 million budget gap.”
“Chairman Tim Lee’s plan includes a millage rate increase for the fire fund, which would move the county’s overall rate from 9.6 to 10.1. The .5 mill fire-fund increase would equal an additional $40 in taxes on a $200,000 house.”
“The plan also calls for all county departments to cut their budgets by 3.5 percent, for a $9 million savings. Another $2.6 million would be saved by closing two pools, two senior centers and most of the county’s libraries. Only the four regional branches — Central, Mountain View, South Cobb and West Cobb libraries — would remain open.”
“Commissioners are scheduled to vote on a mid-year, revised budget plan on Tuesday. The changes will take effect May 1.”
I don’t live in Cobb, but I am still extremely offended by this proposal! This just smacks of non-creative thinking. There has got to be other ways to make up this budget shortfall other than closing one of the greatest resources Cobb communities have – their public libraries!
I grew up patronizing a tiny branch of the Gwinnett County Public library. It was in the basement of another building. It smelled a little funny, but it was our library. I loved perusing the aisles and pulling cards from the paper card catalog system (remember those!). I loved the rocking chairs where I could sit and read while my brother found his book. When the county built the Mountain Park branch that still exists today we thought it was the greatest place in the world.
As a family with three kids, we love our public library and have always been very active patrons. We borrow books, movies and music. We play on their computers and have attended many story times, puppet shows and even magic shows. We go at least once a week. The kids have their books queued up on a personal list. (I have a three-page list of books I want to check out.) They have their library cards and they reserve books online. Some kids beg to go for ice cream; my kids beg to go to the library!
My 7-year-old son had to take his photograph in his favorite place in the community, and he chose the public library!
Closing public libraries hurts all families, but especially those on a budget or just barely getting by. You are DRAMATICALLY and AUTOMATICALLY hurting poor children’s ability to read and learn (and catch up with their more affluent peers) by taking away local public libraries. (Don’t tell a poor person without a car that there is an open branch 15 miles away. That doesn’t help them! Local branches are important.) Kids need access to books to learn to read and to develop their love of learning. Even babies and toddlers benefit from spending time at the library. Thumbing through board books and drooling through lap story times, they are absorbing the English language and ideas.
In tough economic times, public libraries are often the only source of entertainment for families who can’t afford to buy books, buy or rent videos, buy music off the internet, or go out for $50-family movie nights at an expensive theater. As a family that has had two mortgages to pay much of the year, we have ONLY been checking out books, movies and music from the public library! It has been our entertainment savior!
Are there ways to save money within the libraries and not throw the baby out with the bathwater? Sure there are, and Cobb County needs to get smart about it. Which days have the lowest patron visits? Cut back those days. Cut back hours. And I hate to suggest cutting staff and relying on volunteers, but I would much rather see a few lose job then lose almost an entire library system. A few years back I remember Gwinnett County libraries cutting out Sundays. People were mad about losing a weekend day, but at least we had a library right down the street!
I am also sure there are plenty of other things to pare down in the overall Cobb budget other than slashing an entire library system. Will that be harder work? Yes, but tough stuff. That is your job as a county commissioner to make the best decisions for your community not the laziest ones!
Moms and Dads, this is YOUR CALL TO ACTION! You can make a difference. This is NOT a done deal!
From the Save Cobb County Libraries Facebook page. This is how you can help:
|Prevent the closing of Cobb County Libraries. Send an email supporting the libraries to BudgetComments@cobbcounty.org. Attend the Board meeting Tuesday April 12, 9am.|
|Without your support, 13 of Cobb County’s 17 library branches will close indefinitely beginning May 1, 2011. Only the Central, Mountain View, South Cobb, and West Cobb Libraries will remain open.
Show your support for the libraries by:
Thanks to Erin Grien Thomas for calling the County Clerk’s Office and getting the following information about attending Tuesday’s BOC meeting:
• 10 minutes before the meeting is to start, there will be a sign up sheet to get speaking time.
Tell us how you use your public library? If you are a Cobb resident what are other areas that you think the commissioners could cut from to help make up the shortfall? What are you observing in your community?
– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, ajc.com Momania