All of the public libraries in Jackson County, Oregon are closed. And yesterday, by a margin of about 10,000 votes, the citizens voted to keep them closed.

Every place I’ve ever lived - with the exception of a year in North Africa - had libraries, and just as important as getting the electricity turned on was getting my library card. It told me I was a resident, that I was now officially home. Apparently, too many people in Jackson County felt either they couldn’t afford the extra taxes or there should be a different approach to raising the money, money that used to come from the federal government.

But meanwhile the kids growing up in Jackson County have no library. And all those books sit behind locked doors.

It just stuns me that a majority of voters in such a large community would believe that libraries are one public expense too many, or that they should vent their anger at the government by closing libraries. And it stuns me that the largest closing of public libraries in US history has got so little attention.

Salinas had a marathon of celebrities speaking up for its library. Jackson County had a hard-working, dedicated group trying to turn things around. But so far as I know, not one movie star showed up to help.

I'm very sad.

(Cross-posted from my other place)

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Comment by Barbara Fister on August 8, 2007 at 11:26pm
Good to see you here, Joanne. That's good news about Australia. I know books are terribly expensive there, so having public libraries is extra important. There are lots of good things going on in Australian libraries - some of the best academic library research is coming from your side of the globe.
Comment by Barbara Fister on August 8, 2007 at 12:32pm
That's neat to know! I've been to many small-town libraries in Maine. Maybe I should have thanked King.
Comment by Karen J. Laubenstein on August 8, 2007 at 12:28pm
This was happening in Maine back in the 80's and author Stephen King began donating what has now turned out to be many millions to different small town libraries to re-open or re-model them.
Comment by Barbara Fister on May 21, 2007 at 11:38am
The Northwest is interesting ... a real mix of liberal and conservative/libertarian. Oregon has a hard time raising taxes for anything ... and you can't pump your own gas there, thanks to an odd law.

Don't get me started on George!
Comment by Dennis Leppanen on May 21, 2007 at 11:20am
Oregon, of all places. A liberal state.

Chee, it would only happen with George W. Bush as president, after all, he can't read...
Comment by Barbara Fister on May 21, 2007 at 5:35am
That's a really good point, Rebecca - teachers (and kids) are likely to see the effects sooner than people realize. But it's good to hear about another community that reopened its library. I think that just has to happen in Oregon. At least I hope so.
Comment by Rebecca26 on May 21, 2007 at 2:35am
I feel very sorry for the teachers in that community next fall. No summer reading program means that almost every child in that community will have lost a substantial amount of reading skills over the summer. People often forget that libraries do far more than provide leisure reading for people. I read about this closing in Library Hotline. (These days I need a tranquilizer before I read that publication.) I was hopeful that the vote would be favorable. My prayer is that after a period of time without a library people will step up and force a change. That happened when the library in Bedford, Texas closed. The people of Bedford got the library reopened without any celebrities, just some hard work and press coverage.
Comment by Kerrie on May 19, 2007 at 7:36pm
Absolutely dreadful. Almost like a scene out of Fahrenheit451 isn't it? Libraries are so important in community education and access to other information services. But I am just talking to the converted here aren't I? We have had library consolidation here which has resulted in some small libraries being closed but money is being spent on our bigger libraries.
Comment by Anne Frasier on May 19, 2007 at 12:35pm
shocking and horrifying.
Comment by Barbara Fister on May 18, 2007 at 11:20pm
It's one of those "third spaces" that nothing else will quite replace. Plus, for people without much money, it's not just a source of books but of information they need and access to the Internet - and, as more and more government forms can be only processed online, people who can't afford computers and connectivity need that access.

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