Tell Gov. Ted Strickland public libraries are needed now more than ever: Regina Brett

Plain Dealer article, June 24, 09 by Regina Brett:

CLEVELAND -- Gov. Ted Strickland holds the keys to 251 public libraries across the state of Ohio.

Don't let him close them.

Don't let him cut their hours. Don't let him cut their materials.

We have only six days to stop him. A budget decision by the state legislature is due by June 30.

With the governor's latest proposed budget, libraries face a whopping 50 percent cut in state funding. That includes a 20 percent reduction that libraries already suffered because of the state's declining tax collections.

Almost two-thirds of the state's public libraries don't have local property tax levies to lean on. Cut the state funding, and you cut to the bone. You're talking layoffs and closings. Don't let it happen.

A public library is the one thing we should all be able to count on.

It doesn't matter where you live, what kind of parents you have, what kind of schools you have, what kind of money you make, if you have a library, you have a shot at equal access to the world.

If you live in the inner city and need a refuge from the streets, you can count on the library to transport you to safety.

If you live in a small town like I did, a library opens up the path to unlimited opportunity.

I just read an article in Sunday's New York Times about science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, famous for the book "Fahrenheit 451," about burning books. He couldn't afford to go to college, so he went to the library. He wrote "Fahrenheit 451" on a pay typewriter in the basement of a library.

At 88, he's fighting to keep them funded.

"Libraries raised me," he told the reporter.

They raised me, too. All 11 of us. Dad, a sheet metal worker, took us to the library to give us access to a world he couldn't provide. All 11 of us went on to finish college. Those librarians at Reed Memorial Library deserve as much credit for our success as any teacher we had.

I can still remember the smell and feel of the new books and how the librarians displayed them in a special area of the children's section like they were snazzy new cars to test drive.

Don't let the governor close the book on your favorite library. Ohio has one of the best library systems in the country. Don't let the governor take that away. Tell him how vital it is to you and your children.

At Cleveland Public Library, attendance and circulation are up. It's so popular, people have to nearly fight to get to use a computer.

The Cuyahoga County Public Library network is one of the busiest and best in the nation, with 28 branches serving 47 communities. People line up at the door waiting to get in.

The governor can't turn them away. He's got to trim the budget, but don't let him cut libraries. That would be like saying, times are tough so you can't read or search for a job. You can't get help on your resume. You can't have free career counseling, computer training, internet access, online classes, resume preparation, information on new job skills or test preparation for jobs and college.

Log on to saveohiolibraries.com to stop him. Call the governor at 614-466-3555 or 614-644-4357. Fax him at 614-466-9354. E-mail the governor. Tell him you understand he has to cut corners, but that we can't afford to lose any corner of the library.

A library isn't a luxury, it's a lifeline.