". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Librarian's Work Never Ends

Everywhere the public library systems' funding has been slashed and slashed and slashed again -- this even before the Big Bubble Burst of last August.

Public assistance, education, libraries, art and museums, and health care are where budget cuts in bad times are always made first, and made most deeply, the very public services that populations everywhere turn to in times of economic despair. Public transportation is also on that list of first, deepest and continuing cuts if you live where there is any public transport-- the budgets are slashed, services are cut, and the price of usage is increased.

If these are not regressive charges upon the public that has not been responsible in any way for creating the global economy, please tell me what a regressive tax is.

In Europe, Merkle, for instance, isn't panting to join in Obama's and the U.S.'s ideas of how to handle this Depression 02. They are counting on their social safety net of housing subsidies, health care, and all the rest that Europeans' taxes pay for, to carry them through, rather than throwing billions and billions at their banks and dying corps. We here, of course, don't have a safety net ....

Here is one public library's story (in Arlington Heights, a well-to-do suburb of Chicago), but I see this same story played out in front of my eyes right here, and I hear the same story from friends all over the country.

The article includes stories from other libraries around the country:

[ "In Sacramento this year, two branches of the public library temporarily stopped accepting cash as fines for overdue books, after thieves struck three times since June — in one instance, taking off with a safe filled with money." ]

[ "In Lynchburg, Va., a gunman shot a man outside the public library on a Monday afternoon in late January. The victim, who survived, staggered into the library bleeding and looking for help. Since then, an off-duty police officer has been hired by the library for extra security." ]

[ "And in Quincy, Mass., where a man was recently arrested in the library and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, among other offenses, a police officer on beat patrol now walks through the library during operating hours." ]

Libraries have been dangerous places for a long time -- in some places, such as Albquequerque, the university libraries are the worst, attracting predators of all kinds -- which is why some decades back it got difficult to enter a university library (or any other facility) without I.D. Not that this has stopped terrible events from taking place in them or other university facilities -- I'm thinking particularly of some stories from Tulane, at the moment.

But our public libraries deserve so much more from this nation. There are reasons why one of the primary indicators of a 'successful' state is a national library.


Foxessa said...

Why, with all the studies and reports and evidence that document that this approach cannot get us out of economic deficits and crashes, this is still the approach that is taken.

I have never forgotten what a friend of mine said once, a mother of school age kids, who is deeply involved in their 'good' school --

"Why in the world are schools and education of youth -- something so fundamentally important to the present and future of a nation -- expected to get along on financing by bake sales and volunteer time of parents?"

She, of course, puts in loads of volunteer hours, and creates tons of bakery goods, for her children's 'good' schools -- on top of her job, and she's a single mother, without very much help from the kids' dad, who decided a younger model without kids was a better fit for his lifestyle. And then the kids' dad wonders why she's so exhausted she doesn't want to keep the kids with her on the two weekends a month he's scheduled to take them. But that's another story, another rant, blahblahblah.

Anyway, here in NYC, there's a splendid all-in-one solution to our budget deficits. Some years back the city gave commercial AND residential landlords this huge tax break: if their property is sitting empty, they don't have to pay property taxes. Re-instate those property tax breaks on just the commercial landlords, and we would have loads of money for the essentials.

Additionally, they could no longer sit on that property, having it do nothing, with no penalties, waiting for the sucker, er, right tenant to come along and pay the astronomical rents. You don't really believe, these astronomical rents are 'market value' do you? These rates are artificially propped up by all these tax breaks to developers.

This solution, of course, hasn't even been floated anywhere, even in Albany, which would get a goodly percentage of these taxes, or in City Hall.

Love, C.

Foxessa said...

As well, here in NYC there are not enough schools to place high school students.

Particularly not enough schools that are rated as 'good' schools by the parents, particularly if their kids are talented and high achievers.

The school districts here are governed by a hetrogenous tangle of rules and regulations, so placement isn't even necessarily guaranteed to the students of people who live in the district. I don't begin to pretend to understand it.

The Great Depression 02 / Bubble Burst has thrown a sudden, additional, huge number of students seeking placement in the limited number of NYC's 'good' schools -- displacing the students of families that have been working all their families' school years to make those 'good' schools good. These parents (and often their children, the students, particularly the h.s. students who are old enough to understand this situation) are outraged.

Even prior to the Great Depression 02, there weren't enough schools and places for all the students this city has now. Building new schools is glacially slow. The places in the good schools were even more limited. And now, suddenly, students who have spent all their school years in private schools are trying to get into these schools and get the seats that others have had. There are students now who have NO high school to go to at all -- overcrowded and displaced as they've been. There will be social problems too, one thinks, as two different student cultures meet for the first time in the halls and classrooms -- and some students' friends' places have been displaced by these formerly private school kids.

At best, many of these new students' parents believed the public schools weren't good enough and /' or safe enough for their kids, so rather than try to improve the school situation, these parents deserted the public school system. At worst, many of these students's parents despise 'government' and 'public' everything. Now both of these groups are howling that THEY are entitled to the best of the public stuff, that other students' parents have sacrificed and worked for years to make 'best.'

How can you NOT be furious with these people?

Love, C.