Note to library supporters: It’s OK to complain

The Dallas public library system has not been treated kindly by the city over the past decade. In the 2000-01 budget, the city spent $22.6 million to operate the downtown library and 22 branches, employing 427 people. In the current budget, it will spend $22.1 million and employ 356 people to operate the downtown library and 23 branches.

So why, whenever I talk to someone from the library system or the Friends of the Library, do they hold their tongues? I wrote a column for our East Dallas/Lakewood magazine several years ago decrying the cuts and got a letter from a senior library manager, practically begging me not to criticize the bosses downtown for what they had done.

This week, at a town hall budget meeting in Lakewood, the area’s representative to the library board, who is a genuinely nice man and cares deeply about the library system, thanked the council and city staff for their hard work – which, of course, just happened to include the most recent desecration of the library budget. And when times got better, he asked politely, would they consider restoring some of the cuts? More, after the jump:

Enough already. Being nice doesn’t work. Being nice hasn’t worked. The library system, once one of the city’s pride and joys, is an empty shell. It has been gutted and trampled on, the first item in the budget to get cut when cutting needs to be done. So isn’t it time that those of us who support the library stopped being nice? It’s not enough to write checks and volunteer anymore. That hasn’t gotten us anywhere.

Library supporters need to be more aggressive and more political savvy in their approach. Work with like-minded groups in a coalition to fight the cuts. Show up at budget town hall meetings and let the people downtown know we matter. Show up at city council meetings and let them know we’re unhappy with the cuts. And, most importantly, vote – and make sure your representatives know that how they treat the library matters about who you vote for.

Or, as the writer Ray Bradbury noted: ““Libraries raised me. … I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money.” If it’s good enough for Ray Bradbury, it should be good enough for us.


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