The management of the Technology Development division, where I worked, had a hard time with this plan. At the meeting where they explained the program to us, they anticipated the obvious question. "No, this doesn't mean you should cut back your hours to 50 from the 50-80 hours some of you have been working." Even so, most of us were relieved that there would be no layoffs, and the line workers felt the same way.
A favorite budget-cutting tactic of public library directors seems to be curtailment of opening hours (with branch-closing a close second). To me, this seems like the worst possible thing for a public library to do. It's as if Andy Grove had told us that we needed to get rid of 25% of our customers. Public library funding comes from the public, and the best way to convince the public that their library deserves more funding is to get the public inside the library doors.
Public Broadcasting is a good example for public libraries (and a competitor for donor support). Does public radio turn off their transmitter when they need money? No, they put on specially good programming and have pledge drives. My local library puts donor names on bricks; I'd like to see libraries put donor names on opening hours.
One argument for cutting hours might be that the visibility of these cuts makes it easier to restore funding when the economic cycle turns. This may have been true in the past, but I think that the funding that goes away this year will never come back. The way most people access information has changed profoundly since the last economic downturn. A library that reduces its hours is just training its public to meet information needs elsewhere, and that public isn't going to rush back. The library's funding will get cut again and again, and eventually it will have to close its doors.
The public library of the future has to stop being about collections and start being about helping people and communities. Google can't be a physical place where people offer access, assistance and education for the internet and the information it accesses; local public libraries CAN be. It's these "new" directions that will attract renewed public support and funding into the future. But library directors struggling to deal with budget cuts will find it hard to also reposition their services to meet the needs of an increasingly internet-based society.
Although I don't like cutting hours, it's not like there are lots of alternatives. Libraries with slashed budgets have painful cuts to make. Difficult choices will be made on acquisitions, staff, buildings, user fees, organizational mergers and consolidations. If you're involved with a library that's going through this, don't give up.
in the library. (Or at Amazon)
Funding cuts in libraries (thanks to Gary Price at ResourceShelf, the Library Journal Funding Page, and LISNews for many of the links):
- Philadelphians protest library cuts
- New York Area Libraries face budget cuts
- Troy, Michigan library to close
- Los Angeles libraries cut hours
- Toledo Ohio library cuts
- DC Library reduces staff
- Pasadena library may sit empty
- Fair Lawn New Jersey cutting hours
- Salem Wisconsin library cutting programs
- Dallas, Texas
- Decatur, Illinois budget cuts
- Birmingham, Alabama budget cuts
- Wilkes County, North Carolina cuts staff
- Siskiyou County, California Library likely to close
- Prescott, Arizona library cuts hours
- More cuts in Bakersfield California
- Job cuts at Shenandoah County Library
- New Boston library president pushes branch closings
- Montgomery County, Maryland budget cuts force library to re-evaluate mobile services
- Illinois library system layoffs
- Alliance Library System, Illinois cuts services
- Shawnee Library System, Illinois
- Youngstown, Ohio funding shortfalls
- Las Vegas, Nevada reduces service hours and staff
- Lewis & Clark Library System forced to suspend services
- Illinois Regional systems cut
- Indianapolis, Indiana may close branches
- Tacoma, Washington library in crosshairs
- Jacksonville, Florida cuts hours
- Houston, Texas library system to cut hours
- Mineral County, West Virginia to cut hours
- Hoboken, New Jersey faces cuts
- Dallas, Texas libraries slashed
- Pomona, California library to cut hours
- Kansas City libraries propose cuts
- Hood River, Oregon Library to close
- Charlotte Mecklenburg to close branches
- Portland, Maine to close branches
- Lexington, Kentucky library to cut staff
- Muncie, Indiana to close locations