Save the Free Library

To be honest, I've sort of been ignoring the budget impasse that's been plaguing our Pennsylvania state government. I've been through several of these before in other states (and I remember well a couple federal ones), and everything always turns out OK in the end. There's partisan bickering, a few services that don't affect me shut down temporarily, and every public television and radio station in the state starts freaking out. It's annoying, but the effects are usually limited, and eventually a budget passes.

This time, apparently, it's worse than all that. This budget bickering has gone on so long that services that DO affect me are starting to shut down. I wasn't *too* worried when the PBS station to which I gave a substantial portion of a windfall I received earlier this year called last night to ask for more money; as mentioned above, public tv and radio are usually the first ones to cry out in pain. (Sometimes they cry so often it's hard to tell whether the pain is real.)

This morning, however, I discovered this: All Free Library of Philadelphia Branch, Regional and Central Libraries Closed Effective Close of Business October 2, 2009

At first glance, it might sound like the usual public television "they're going to take away Big Bird!" hyperbole. Our nanny thought it was a joke. It's not. Yes, the closure won't take place until October 2, and yes, it will only happen if the legislators in Harrisburg continue to fail to pass a state budget, but the effects will be felt sooner than that—and given how long the budget negotiations have already dragged on, the threat of Philadelphia's Free Public Library closing is absolutely real.

If you live in Pennsylvania, please contact your state senator and state representative and ask them to act with all possible speed to pass a state budget. Here's the letter I sent to my senator, Larry Farnese, and (with slight modifications) my representative, Babette Josephs.

PLEASE PLEASE do whatever you can to get a state budget passed ASAP. My four-and-a-half year-old son is an early reader and an avid consumer of Free Library books and services. His twice-weekly visits to the library have fostered his independence and confidence in addition to his reading skills. We want him out and about and interacting with the community, not just sitting in his room at home. We can afford to buy him books if the library closes, but honestly, we'd rather pay more taxes to keep the libraries open than use that same money to buy books for our child's exclusive use. Libraries do so much more for our community than an endless supply of books could do for a single child.

Please be a voice for our kid, our libraries, and our district. Please act in the spirit of cooperation and compromise, and encourage your fellow Senators and House colleagues to do the same.

Lori Hylan-Cho

Posted by Lori in books and civics and politics and public policy at 1:50 PM on September 14, 2009