Everyone’s budget is in bad shape these days. Libraries are struggling to get by, too, but the news from the library in Queens, NY is terrible by any measure. In case you haven’t heard, the Queens Library is taking an unprecedented step in its 104-year history: it is no longer buying new books.
The library director says the library has been trimming hours and staff over the last two years to maintain service as its budget is cut deeper and deeper. Now, it has given up buying books in order to keep its doors open. The library, says CEO Tom Galante, has shifted its mission subtly, “from lending books to providing English lessons, aiding job seekers and providing internet access.”
Of course Queens is not alone. Even the huge New York Public library has stopped hiring and is looking at the posibility of reduced hours and service. In Georgia, there are dozens of libraries who have had to impose changes in their service because of financial distress. These have upset a lot of patrons. But not one that I’ve heard of has chosen to stop buying new books entirely.
What do you think? Is this ultimately a wise and realistic decision? Or is it merely a noisy a way of calling attention to the library’s plight? What do you want and expect from your library? What are you willing to pay for it? And what is and should be the library’s role in our society, our culture?
Your thoughts are warmly invited and will be posted.