Library Love & Dining Out for Drone Warfare

There’s still a day of National Library Week left for everyone to go out and show their local libraries (and librarians) some much-needed love.

The American Library Association’s annual celebration of the indispensable role libraries play in communities across the United States,

National Library Week is also a time to stand up for libraries during a time when libraries continue to face challenges, with school libraries in particular continuing to suffer from a combination of recession-driven financial pressures and federal neglect, with the threat of elimination or de-professionalization of school library programs in some districts and some states.

As reported by the local newspaper monopoly, Sonoma County libraries face a number of serious challenges, including a budget deficit for this fiscal year of $610,000, and hours open to the public still drastically reduced since being curtailed in 2011 thanks to the financial pressures of the Great Recession. Twelve hours were cut from the libraries’ schedule that year in a cost-cutting measure, including all of Monday, traditionally their busiest day of the week.

Yet demands for library services, including internet access, have grown and the positive effects of those services is undeniable. Over 62 percent of libraries last year reported being the sole source of free public access to computers and the internet in their communities. Studies have consistently shown that professionally-staffed school library programs result in higher academic achievement levels and higher test scores.

Sonoma County libraries have been under increasing pressure from the public to restore services, including last summer’s presentation by journalist Jonathan Greenberg, of Progressive Source Communications, of over 1,800 signatures to the Sonoma County Library Commission demanding the group find a way to restore library hours or resign. Greenberg and other community activists have begun a grassroots campaign to pressure the commission to restore and enhance the county’s library system.

 Declaration for the Right to Libraries

Last summer, Barbara Stripling, President of the American Library Association (ALA), unveiled the nifty Declaration for the Right to Libraries, at a Nashville ceremony. The ALA hopes to use the Declaration as a tool for library advocacy, to help build sustained public support for libraries everywhere. It reads,

Declaration for the Right to Libraries


Declaration for the Right to Libraries

In the spirit of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we believe that libraries are essential to a democratic society. Every day, in countless communities across our nation and the world, millions of children, students and adults use libraries to learn, grow and achieve their dreams. In addition to a vast array of books, computers and other resources, library users benefit from the expert teaching and guidance of librarians and library staff to help expand their minds and open new worlds. We declare and affirm our right to quality libraries -public, school, academic, and special – and urge you to show your support by signing your name to this Declaration for the Right to Libraries.

LIBRARIES EMPOWER THE INDIVIDUAL.  Whether developing skills to succeed in school, looking for a job, exploring possible careers, having a baby, or planning retirement, people of all ages turn to libraries for instruction, support, and access to computers and other resources to help them lead better lives.

LIBRARIES SUPPORT LITERACY AND LIFELONG LEARNING.  Many children and adults learn to read at their school and public libraries via story times, research projects, summer reading, tutoring and other opportunities. Others come to the library to learn the technology and information skills that help them answer their questions, discover new interests, and share their ideas with others.

LIBRARIES STRENGTHEN FAMILIES.  Families find a comfortable, welcoming space and a wealth of resources to help them learn, grow and play together.

LIBRARIES ARE THE GREAT EQUALIZER.  Libraries serve people of every age, education level, income level, ethnicity and physical ability. For many people, libraries provide resources that they could not otherwise afford – resources they need to live, learn, work and govern.

LIBRARIES BUILD COMMUNITIES.  Libraries bring people together, both in person and online, to have conversations and to learn from and help each other. Libraries provide support for seniors, immigrants and others with special needs.

LIBRARIES PROTECT OUR RIGHT TO KNOW.  Our right to read, seek information, and speak freely must not be taken for granted. Libraries and librarians actively defend this most basic freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

LIBRARIES STRENGTHEN OUR NATION.  The economic health and successful governance of our nation depend on people who are literate and informed. School, public, academic, and special libraries support this basic right.

LIBRARIES ADVANCE RESEARCH AND SCHOLARSHIP.  Knowledge grows from knowledge. Whether doing a school assignment, seeking a cure for cancer, pursuing an academic degree, or developing a more fuel efficient engine, scholars and researchers of all ages depend on the knowledge and expertise that libraries and librarians offer.

LIBRARIES HELP US TO BETTER UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER.  People from all walks of life come together at libraries to discuss issues of common concern. Libraries provide programs, collections, and meeting spaces to help us share and learn from our differences.

LIBRARIES PRESERVE OUR NATION’S CULTURAL HERITAGE.  The past is key to our future. Libraries collect, digitize, and preserve original and unique historical documents that help us to better understand our past, present and future.

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While we’re talking libraries, keep an eye out next Wednesday  – April 23, 2014 – for World Book Night activities (it’s also UNESCO’s anniversary and the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death in 1616), when 25,000 volunteers across the country will hand out half a million free books to light and non-readers and those with limited access to books.

In the meantime, hug a librarian if you can, and let’s work towards a world where universal access to library books and services is guaranteed, where libraries are fully funded but, in a 21st Century variation of Bake Sales for Bombers, the Pentagon and CIA must ask us to Dine Out for Drone Warfare. 




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