Sunday, May 24, 2015

Public Libraries

HPL Downtown - the mouse greets you!
Hey, lefties... are public libraries essential, optional, or a waste of money? Apparently Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is proudly on the cusp between optional and a waste. Here's Democrats Ramshield at Kos:
As an American librarian I am glad to be living in the European Union where library funding isn't under attack to the extent that it is back home in the United States, because readership, literacy and an open based knowledge system that is publicly funded is still valued. In America, library budgets have become low hanging fruit for conservative local and state politicians.Louisiana is the worse case in point where Gov. Bobby Jindal has eliminated state library funding all together. Not only does it beg the question will your state be next but it asks the question what will you do when they come for your library and your kid's summer reading program? Do you really know how many books it's really going to take to make that special child or grandchild in your life a lifelong reader. Do you think you have anywhere near those numbers of books in your private collection?

HPL Downtown - Jesse H. Jones Bldg.
Entry area, view from 2nd floor
Please let's remember the voluminous studies that have been done year after year, decade after decade that show us that prison inmates for the most part are functionally illiterate and that teen pregnancy is directly linked to literacy rates.

Christian Science Monitor: November 18, 2013
Louisiana residents choose libraries over jail to receive funds Residents of Lafourche Parish in Louisiana recently voted down a proposal that would have used money currently going to local libraries to build a new prison.
HPL Downtown - Jesse H. Jones Bldg?
Reading Room
The LA Times has more in this article:
HPL Downtown - Julia Ideson Bldg.
(The library of my childhood)
Citing budget concerns, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed a $25-billion budget that eliminates almost $900,000 in state funding for its libraries. In a statement, the governor’s chief budget aide, Paul Rainwater, said, “In tight budget times, we prioritized funding for healthcare and education. Operations such as local libraries can be supported with local, not state dollars.”

On Thursday, Library Journal took a look at that assertion. What they found was that while some local parishes may be able to cover the funding gap, others will feel the loss. Rural parishes will face a particularly daunting challenge.

I am anything but neutral on this matter: a free and democratic society stands or falls on the depth and breadth of its information resources available directly to citizens. Cutting public library funding by almost $1m virtually assures Jindal and his sorry state (sorry, State of Louisiana, but that's how I see it) will slip irretrievably behind in today's knowledge-driven world. It just won't work to leave out rural people, or poor people, or... anybody. Everyone must have access to the means of lifelong self-education.

HPL Downtown - Julia Ideson Bldg.
(View from above old catalog room?)
I know some educated, one might even say brilliant people who have lived most of their lives in Louisiana. I can make a good guess at which side of this issue they're on, and it isn't "cut my taxes by whacking libraries." In rural Texas, I have had the great pleasure of seeing my direct ancestors, farmers all, benefit from their personal commitment to college education for a large portion of the family; you should have seen my grandfather tackle the latest research from the agricultural extension at Texas A. & M., and apply it to the next year's crops. You can bet every blessed one of that family spent their share of time in public libraries and the libraries of agricultural colleges: it's what bright, successful people do, and they were both.

I know it's not my place to tell Gov. Jindal what to do, but it is within my reach to tell him he's being a damned fool, and urge the residents of the great state of La. to boot him out and replace him. And... he wants to be prez? Awwww, gimme a break...

As you can tell, I'm very proud of the Houston Public Library system. In addition to the Jesse H. Jones (downtown) library, there are (I think; I was counting by hand) 43 neighborhood locations, including some specialized libraries (Genealogy, anyone? African American Studies? We got it!) The hold system (effectively ILL) works reliably, reminding one by email when the book has reached the neighborhood library. Maintenance is excellent and the buildings are occasionally renovated. IOW, I live in a city committed, rain or shine, to a top quality library system for its citizens. Yes, I'm sure it costs tax money, and yes, HPL had to back off along with everything else during the Great Recession... but the commitment remained, and was fulfilled even in the worst years. The management and the professional staff clearly understand what is at stake. If only every American (*cough* Gov. Jindal, and for that matter, Gov. Abbott *cough*) understood...


  1. Piyush is less popular than Obama in Louisiana.

    Less popular.

    Than the man known as "The Obamination" in Louisiana.

    Stop and think about that for a moment. How bad of a governor must a man be, to be less popular than a black President in the last state of the Confederacy to be allowed to rejoin the Union?

    Well, I guess now we know.

    1. BadTux, as much as I like the idea of a meal of yellow curry and sag paneer served in a Governor's Mansion, and as little as the name "Piyush" sounds unusual to me (Houston has a HUGE Indian‑American community, and many of its families retain the naming traditions of the Old Country), I have to say this: "Bobby" Jindal is a real piece of work. I know some Indian‑Americans in Houston, and yes, a lot of them are conservative, but by and large they're not nutso enough to start eliminating library funding... and Jindal is proud of doing just that! What a (insert Hindi equivalent of "schmuck" here)!

    2. According to the Libertarian Orthodoxy that Piyush follows, if libraries were important, the free market would provide them. He is a True Believer, an ideologue, a revolutionary in Mr. Rogers clothing. Thus why he adopted the name "Bobby", to signify that he is not the same person that he was before he became a True Believer, and also as a mask to hide what he really is from the public at large.

    3. 'Tux, somebody more aggressive (and heavier) than I am needs to force Jindal into a large chair, sit on him to make him stay there, force him to read Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, and finally make him pass a test showing he understood it. The conditions under which unrestricted, unregulated capitalism was a viable economic system for a free society, if indeed they ever existed, are most certainly not the conditions under which the world operates today; this, in turn, renders "Libertarian Orthodoxy" even more pitifully absurd than it was before the era of human-induced climate change. A lot of people have a lot to relearn, not least among them, Jindal and his Republican cohort.



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