There are two things I can always count on—getting a phone call from my mother every day and the Pennsylvania state budget not being passed by the July 1 deadline. Of course, this year I’m glad I still have time to protest even though something about politics just wears me out. After working like a dog on the McCain campaign and losing, I thought I would stay out of political discussions for good—that is, until the state started to mess with my library!
I heard Governor Ed Rendell was cutting money spent on education and social services, which really irked me. Since I’ve given up on government, I didn’t think my voice made a difference one way or the other. So when my friend and I walked into the local library today, I didn’t think I would leave with a mission, just a book or two.
As it turns out, Pennsylvania Senate Bill 850 will cut $42 million from the public libraries across the state (that’s about a 50% decrease in the library budget). This means the end of the Access Pennsylvania program, which allows library patrons to use other libraries in the area. Also, being axed (at least for the Emmaus community) is access to POWER Library—a database that offers a ton of resources including magazine articles, literature, encyclopedias, and other materials that are valuable to students and researchers alike.
Here’s what it means to me, a resident of Emmaus, PA and a patron of the Emmaus Public Library. I will no longer be able to borrow materials from the Allentown or Bethlehem Public Libraries, which are much bigger than the Emmaus Library. If I want to do research using POWER Library, I won’t be able to because the program is being discontinued at my library. Plus, the Emmaus Public Library will have to cut hours as well as their materials budget. Not only will I only be able to use one library, the library I frequent won’t even be able to buy up-to-date materials for the community. And if I want a card to another area library, I will have to pay a yearly fee (estimated to be at about $40), which is already required in a few other state.
I practically grew up in the library up the street from my house. I would borrow the same books over and over again. I gasped with glee when new books appeared on the shelves. My thirst for knowledge, adventure, and information could never be quenched. I only needed to walk half a block to discover worlds that only existed between the pages of books.
Libraries exist not only so we can read books for free, but so we can share knowledge and literature with one another. There’s something refreshing about a well-loved library book, whose spine is bent and pages are crinkled—it shows a book that has been enjoyed by many. Summer reading programs, community events, internet access, and educational programming are also offered at local libraries. Libraries don’t only enrich our minds; they enrich our lives and our communities. Are you with me, Pennsylvania? Then let’s save our local libraries!
I’ve got a plan! We have to tell our representatives what our libraries mean to us. Since they work for us, they’d better listen or they’ll be out of a job when re-election comes around. Write or call your local senators and state representatives and tell them that you want library funding restored to 2008-2009 levels. Don’t let librarians become an endangered species!
Don’t know what to say when you call? Try this!
“Hello, my name is _________. I am a constituent of ________. I am very concerned about Pennsylvania Senate Bill 850, which threatens to cut $42 million from the public libraries in the state. Libraries are essential not only to learning, but to community life. I am asking you to return funding for the libraries to 2008-2009 levels. Thank you.”
If you live in the Lehigh Valley, you can use these addresses (and no, I have no idea why they’re spaced oddly):
Senator Pat Browne
801 Hamilton St
Allentown, PA 18101
Senator Robert Wonderling
1245 Chestnut St.
Emmaus, PA 18049
Rep. Douglas Reichley
1245 Chestnut St.
Emmaus, PA 18049
Rep. Karen Beyer
2851 S. Pike Ave., Suite C
Allentown, PA 18103
You can also send copies of the letter you have sent to your state legislators to:
Governor Ed Rendell
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Clare Zales, Commissioner of Libraries
PA Department of Education
333 Market St.
Harrisburg, PA 17126