Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My first library home won't be the same

Twelve years ago I started my library career at the Lakewood Public Library.

If Governor Strickland's proposed budget passes next week there will probably be no one writing that in 12 years. Or 11 years. Or 10 years. Or even one year.

According to Lakewood Public Library director Ken Warren, the proposed budget cuts for libraries would have a "catastrophic" effect on my original library workplace. Warren told the Lakewood Sun Post that the library currently has fewer employees than it did in 2004, this despite a bigger building that opened just last year. More cuts will just be a killer for LPL.

LPL, like every other library, will suffer from reductions just about everywhere you can think of should the budget pass as the governor proposes -- staff layoffs and furloughs, programming cuts, fewer materials, reduced hours.

This at a library ranked fifth in the nation in its size in the most recent HAPLR Index. (Hey, Lakewood, at least I got something on you since my own library is two spots ahead of yours!)

There'd be no room even to add a 20-hour-a-week minimum-wage page such as I was in the fall of 1997. Since then I've moved into the circulation department at Lakewood, then onto the reference desks at Rocky River Public Library and Lorain County Community College before finishing my MLS at Kent State and starting in my current position as an adult reference librarian at Euclid Public Library. Up the ladder, maybe not all the way, but at least partway, rung by rung. That ladder could be gone in a week.

Ken Warren will soon be retiring from the post he's held for 25 years. He doesn't have to stand up for libraries anymore. He could go gentle into that good night. But not him. He was front and center at the library rally held on the steps of Cleveland Public Library a week ago. In the best 30 seconds of the rally, he took the podium and railed at our political leaders, calling it "insanity" to shut libraries down. I was fortunate enough to make it to Mr. Warren's retirement party in Lakewood later that night and thank him for giving me my start in libraries more than a decade ago.

Hopefully that ladder will still be there for someone else to start climbing.

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