Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sign of the End Times: Library Closings

(My apologies for the long break in between posts; I was on vacation.  Well, from my job anyway.  I was around, but my brother was off from his job too, so we actually got to go to some places.  E.G., the Bronz Zoo, which I haven't visited since I was a kid, and Coopertown, NY, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The drive is a pain, 4 to 5 hours each way, but the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and Cooperstown is a beautiful small town.  It was also nice to have a break from my regular habit of surfing the web for "doom" articles.  But now, I am back). 

I view the future with a heavy sense of foreboding, for reasons that I've talked about many times on here.  The consequences of peak oil and the runaway train that we call the finance system, our economy, globzalization, take your pick, are countless and will doubtless afflict us in every which way possible.  But I no longer believe that it will happen tomorrow or very soon.  I suspect that it will take quite awhile to fully play out, not unlike seeing a car crash played back in slo-motion, and we are still at the beginning stages.  Nonetheless, this is already playing out in other countries (Greece being just one) and in some places here in the U.S., including places very close to our backyards. 

This article talks about the possible closure of the Camden, N.J. library system, and also that the Queens library system has stopped weekend service in many of its branches.  Previously, I have read other accounts of limits being imposed on library services due to budget shortfalls.  Thankfully, the library system in my community has been relatively untouched, at least for now. 

My library is almost magical.  I use it for many things.  For example, I'm a big movie buff.  I always try to keep up on the latest DVD releases, whether major theatrical releases or small, art-house indie films.  When I see a movie on the horizon that I'd like to see, I look it up on the library catalog, and it'll usually be on order.  I'll put in a request for it.  Since I'm often one of the first people to do this, I usually am able to check it out on the day of release, or at the latest, a week or so after.  It's much better than the video store or Netflix, both of which services I had used in the past.  I check my library record, and when it says that it's ready, I go there, present my library card, and it is in my hands.  Not just movies though, I regularly take out books, music, TV series DVDs, lectures, etc.  And if my library doesn't have it, another library in the Suffolk County system usually will.  All free of charge (not counting the property taxes levied, of course). 

The library budget vote is the only one that I try not to miss every year.  And it has always passed for as long as I can remember.  I am very grateful for that, and hope that things can stay relatively stable, at least for the time being.  The article also interviews people who talk about the positive effect that the library has for the poor, the unemployed looking for work, basically everyone living in a community.  My mom thinks that libraries might become obselute someday due to the e-book phenomenon; I don't agree, if libraries do become obselute, it won't be for that reason.  If the effects of resource depletion and our casino economy hit our state and local governments as hard as I think they will (in fact, it's already happening), libraries will probably be one of the first things to go, and that makes my blood chill.  We all pay a lot of taxes, one way or the other, for many government services, many of which we often don't witness the benefits of firsthand, or take for granted, since they're hidden in plain sight.  But the library is one of the few things that offers a positive impact that everyone walking through its doors can witness and attest to.  The sickening thing is that I'm sure a lot of things can be cut from the budget that are relatively useless to many of us, but due to a mix of government inefficiency and pandering to elites, our libraries would come under attack first. 

Just to give you one example, lest I be accused of being a blowhard just shooting off his mouth, I read on the NY budget crisis when it was first happening.  I read of some of the waste that occurs in our state government, including a $25,000 Chinese handmade rug in the governor's office.  Now, this by itself would be outrageous, but in the case of our current governor, it's even more so, since the man is fucking blind! 

Far be it for me to act as any kind of expert on civilization, but when our libraries start closing, you can see our civilization in the beginning of its death throes.

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