Cobb County Libraries in Trouble!

I read about library closings all over the county. Since 2008, every issue of ALA’s American Libraries mentions some article about library closings…11 branches shut down in New Jersey…another 13 shut down in Nevada…etc etc etc.

However, a colleague of mine who works for the Cobb County Library system recently posted on Facebook that, in order to balance the budget, Cobb County officials are going to shut down all but FOUR libraries in this very large and populous county.  This really hit close to home. While I no longer am a Cobb County resident *sniff* I felt that I had to say something.

The Cobb County libraries were such an integral part of my life.  I spent so much time there, especially during my school years.

While I cannot attend any meetings in person, I wrote the following missive in hopes that it will make the Cobb County Commission chairman rethink his budget strategy:

Mr. Lee:

Please reconsider your proposed closing of Cobb County libraries. Thousands of Cobb residents depend on the libraries for internet access, reference materials, and critical information. In doing so, you will be cutting off many people from this. Cobb is a huge county, and 4 libraries are not enough.

Each day, Cobb County librarians and staff are harried and busy, helping people with filing tax returns, apply for jobs, assisting patrons with major purchase decisions, and pointing students in the direction of the right sources for school projects. This is a typical scenario that I have witnessed each time I was at the East Marietta Branch or Vinings Branch libraries, two of the libraries that you propose shutting down.

I grew up in Cobb County my entire life, and the library was an integral part of it. As a child, I remember story-time and voraciously reading about topics of interest at the East Marietta Branch. I worked as a page at the Vinings branch during high school, and as an adult, I have utilized Cobb County libraries to do the following: register to vote, research for the purchase of a new car, teach myself programming languages, learn about traveling in a new country.

You probably think that you can get “everything on the Internet” these days, but it is not free and not cheap. When you find the NY Times upping its digital subscription prices (which it already is), and you are flabbergasted you have to pay to access stuff like Consumer Reports online, you will wish you have some place to go where you didn’t have to pay so much for basic reference materials (which, by the way, are getting more expensive that even the affluent citizens of East Cobb will not be able to afford).

Libraries do a lot more than store books and offer a few terminals to people who cannot afford their own PCs. They offer programs to educate and equip people to gain skills and knowledge that will enable them to become more informed citizens…to equip them to find work so that more people can pay the taxes which will then support your infrastructure. I am sure you are aware that the reason you are in the predicament that you are in is because of the lack of jobs in Georgia, which in turn reduces the amount of revenue-generating taxpayers. It amazes me that Georgia officials are often turning to education for their biggest cuts. Cobb County alone laid off hundreds of teachers last year, resulting in class sizes that are too large to provide quality education.

While I understand  there are probably many, many critical things competing for your small budget, closing libraries and massive education cuts will not ameliorate this problem. In fact, you are only digging yourself a larger hole in the long run.”

I will be keeping my fingers crossed for my colleagues who currently work in this system. I really do think that GA officials are really wrong to cut as much from education as they have been.  And people wonder why the US in general is lagging behind in education…