The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Cutting Library Funding Hurts Everyone

Read My Lips

"Democrats have been groping for a way to counter George Bush's maniacal tax cuts, which are designed to shrink government and shift as many things as possible to the market. May I make a suggestion? When you shrink government, what you do, over time, is shrink the services provided by federal, state and local governments to the vast American middle class. I would suggest that henceforth Democrats simply ask voters to substitute the word 'services' for the word 'taxes' every time they hear President Bush speak.

That is, when the president says he wants yet another round of reckless 'tax cuts,' which will shift huge burdens to our children, Democrats should simply refer to them as 'service cuts,' because that is the only way these tax cuts will be paid for by cuts in services....

This in turn will shrink the federal government's ability to help out the already strapped states. Since most states have to run balanced budgets, that will mean less health care and kindergarten for children and the poor, higher state college tuition, smaller local school budgets and fewer state service workers. And Lord only knows how we'll finance Social Security.

Everyone wants taxes to be cut, but no one wants services to be cut, which is why Democrats have to reframe the debate and show President Bush for what he really is: a man who is not putting money into your pocket, but who is removing government services and safety nets from your life." [New York Times, via rc3.org Daily]

I try not to get too political on this blog, but when you work in libraries, you see the direct consequences that Friedman discusses in his column. It's a fact that library usage goes up during economic downturns, but yet our budgets are being cut left and right, along with those of other government services.

I work at one of Illinois' 12 Library Systems, so I don't interact directly with the public. Instead, we offer services and support to our member libraries that help them serve the public in better and more efficient ways (delivery, interlibrary loan, online catalogs, technology, etc.). Our new fiscal year starts July 1, and we'll have cut $500,000 from our budget by that date, a figure that will include personnel layoffs. I believe that's a quarter of our entire budget.

And yet we need to do more. Our libraries need to do more. We're losing school librarians at an alarming rate, public libraries are cutting hours and staff, and academic libraries are buying fewer resources. And who exactly do we expect to teach our kids (and adults) about information literacy? Who is going to be left to take on this task if we keep cutting government services, including library funding? And we haven't even mentioned access to accurate and authentic resources, archiving our country's history, bridging the digital divide, answering your easiest or most difficult questions, providing access to the world's literature, and the other essential services libraries provide.

Personally, I'm going to follow Friedman's suggestion to replace the phrase "tax cuts" with the more accurate "service cuts" because like educators, I'm seeing their effects on whole communities of users. You can call it whatever you want, but I hope you'll consider contacting your legislators and letting them know that you prefer we keep funding our libraries at a level that lets them provide the services upon which we've built the very ideals of this country.

Side note: In my email, I get lots of requests to sign pre-written letters for specific causes. I just fill in my name and address and the organization sends a letter in my name to the targeted legislators, either by email or fax. I'd like to see ALA start providing this type of service, one that would make it easier for librarians and the public to make our voices heard.

11:32:03 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!

RSS Aggregators Gaining Ground!

Should the big pubs be paying attention to RSS? Just ask Andy Rhinehart at GoUpstate.com, home of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal newspaper.

Last year Andy led the pack by offering an RSS feed for their top news stories. This year he enhanced the SHJ's status by creating a feed for their classified ads, and he topped himself with a third feed for stories about the war in Iraq.

So GoUpstate.com is a good model for other newspapers to emulate, but we all know you need numbers to help sell the benefits of RSS at that level. Once again, here comes Andy to the rescue. He provides us with some hard facts from the Spartanburg Herald-Journal's experience (emphasis is mine):

"From March 1-May 31, users accessing our RSS feeds accounted for 7.97 percent of our total traffic. This doesn't include people coming to the site from the various blogs who used the RSS items, but just the number of times our feeds were accessed.

The one disclaimer that probably should be noted - some folks may have their aggregators hitting us often throughout the day, especially back during the war.

Looking at my top 25 referers from yesterday [Monday], I see NetNewsWire, Radio's aggregator, Frontier's aggregator, and Amphetadesk. I'd say the aggregator movement is gaining ground."

If you figure that we're still in the "early adopters" stage for RSS, 8% is a pretty staggering number for a major newspaper's traffic. Even with Andy's disclaimer, this is far more than just a handful of people reading the paper via an aggregator. This is going to be big, and the Spartanburg Herald-Journal is going to ride the crest of the wave!

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