We don’t have to fine him. Gov. Jay Nixon did the right thing by Missouri public libraries on Friday. Thank Dewey Decimal.
After much protesting and petitioning, the #saveMOlibraries movement paid off. Nixon released $43 million in state funds, including about $6 million for libraries, that he had withheld because of budget concerns. Apparently March was a good month for state revenue.
The cut would have sliced deep into the Kansas City Public Library. The missing $100,000 would have led to reductions in staff and materials. Now branches can get back to serving 185,000 Kansas Citians a month without that stress.
“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library,” Lady Bird Johnson once said. “The only entrance requirement is interest.”
Look at Ferguson. There the library proved to be a place of solace when protests and anguish took over the town. While other businesses closed, it remained a nurturing resource.
I love kicking back on the rooftop of the Central Library downtown. Not only is it just a fun place to be, there’s the e-book catalog, music streaming and inspiration.
Just a few months ago I sat in on a motivational speech by Karen Civil at the Plaza Branch. I still smile at the memory of taking the teen I mentor to see the script-in-hand performance of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” It was at a talk at the library where I met hundreds of readers in person. Connectivity lives at the library.
Beyond the emotions of it all, our local libraries are stacked with resources. Those 3-D printers you see on “Grey’s Anatomy”? They have them. And each branch caters to its community. At the Ruiz Branch on the West Side, you can check out seeds (plant, harvest and bring back new seeds) or take gardening classes. Over on the East Side, the Bluford Branch has a Health & Wellness Center. Digital Media Labs at various branches teach teens how to code, shoot and edit video and more.
While we celebrate this victory, we must remain committed to the cause, said Wick Thomas, the youth services librarian at the Plaza Branch and one of the voices lobbying to protect the libraries. The budget for next year is still up for debate. Contact your state reps to ensure the library maintains its funds.
They’re a vital institution to every city, says Wick, 28, who has been at the Kansas City Public Library for seven years. The Kansas City library system brings in about 2,800 new members a month.
“People ask, ‘What’s the point of the library when you have Google?’ Google gives you the most popular results, it tailors itself to you and reinforces your opinion,” Wick said. “The library takes research deeper. We offer unbiased access to information for every viewpoint. And it’s free. We have Internet access, arts, discussions and we talk, debate and share information. It’s important to so many different people for so many different reasons. It’s a stronghold for democracy.”
When we stand up for libraries, we stand up for our entire community. We must hush politicians looking to silence the literary heartbeat of our state.