I think it’s time someone wrote on the issues facing public libraries in low-income communities. To some extent most American public libraries have dealt with budget cut-backs in recent years, but this is problem is much more extreme for libraries in poorer communities. I would like to share feedback and solutions. After all, the public library is one of the greatest means by which people can “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”. Librarians can help in poorer communities with information-literacy, teaching basic computer skills, gathering consumer and community resources (eg. information about block clubs, legal aid clinics, etc.) and, of course, getting children interested in reading, telling their own stories, being creative with crafts, dramatic activities, etc.
But all this good work can come to a screeching halt in recessionary times as property values decline, especially in poorer communities. I’ve seen more than one public library whose millage now brings in less than half the revenue it did before the Recession of 2008. These libraries have had to cut hours and staff, leading to less programming which serves the needs of the community as I have described them above.
Since I’ve never been an administrator, I have less knowledge of solutions, but the American Library Association is calling on all library supporters to write to our elected officials about the need for public libraries, and I intend to share my above thoughts.