Everything Checked Out: Protesters Empty Library Shelves as Economy Continues to Fizzle January 20, 2011 – Tags: ,

All 16,000 books from a library in the UK have been checked out in protest of a plan to shut the library for good.

When news broke of the plan to close the library residents who patronize the Stony Stratford library in Milton Keynes banded together, primarily using social media, and came up with a plan to pool their library cards an begin checking out the maximum amount of material.  At the rate of close to 400 items an hour books, DVD’s and CD’s began flying off the shelves until everything was gone.

Clever for sure and the story’s reach can do nothing but reiterate the carnage that is taking place in the public library systems on both sides of the pond.

Clearly the economic collapse is still in motion and anything with the word “Public” in it these days is in dire straights. Schools, libraries (including university and state), historical museums and archives are all suffering. While the Federal government boasts of a stabilizing economy, cities, counties and states across the country are faced with devastating choices. Here in Washington state the latest budget cuts announced by the governor consisted of a “parade of horribles.”

Forget our public libraries and public schools even our public safety is at risk with police and fire departments also feeling the heat. In King County, the county where Seattle resides, 28 sheriff’s deputies and 16 prosecutors were cut from the payroll. And it has nothing to do with having less crime.

When I read about the Stony Stratford library protest one of my first thoughts, unfortunately, was that they might want to just lock the door now and let everyone keep the books they checked out. Then they wouldn’t have to deal with getting rid of them (ie: incur the extra expense) when the time comes to close.

These are dangerous times. A full recovery is a long way away; it is quite possible that we will not see pre-crash funding for our public and school libraries in my lifetime.

So what are we going to do?

The time is ripe for communities to start working together to come up with new ways to ensure that the book and literacy needs of its residents are met. True public/private partnerships (that do not include outsourcing) are required. We must think outside the television, oops, I mean box, and everything should be on the table.

As these photos attest we’ve already begun the drift toward illiteracy and we can hardly afford to go much further.

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