Posts Tagged ‘public libraries’

In a recent segment by Fox News Chicago, the question was posed:  “Are Libraries Necessary, or a Waste of Tax Money?”  With Illinois unable to pay its bills, people are wondering whether the $120 million dollars that Chicago allocates to the libraries is worth it?

Photo by Shawn Econo from Flickr

The Fox News team donned an undercover camera and took to the stacks,  if you will, to investigate.  What they found out from their in-depth, and unbiased and balanced observation was shocking!  During an entire hour, which is a million years in journalism years, they counted 300 patrons, most of whom were using the library’s free access to the internet, and not looking at books.  Oh the horror!  One can only conclude that the rest of the 4,700 visitors to the Harold Washington Library, must also be on a similar, non-book quest.  With soaring heat temperatures, perhaps they are merely using the beautiful $144 million dollar building as a cooling shelter.

Oh no, libraries are not bastions of  intellectual pursuit, repositories of knowledge, the great equalizer for the common man, they are a drain on the taxpayer!  The irony is of course that with the economy in the dumps, libraries are seeing an upsurge in patrons when the tax base supporting them is eroding.  There are almost 800 libraries in Illinois, and people borrow over 88 million times a year!  I do not doubt those figures, just this year alone I’ve borrowed over ten books, and I’m a casual user.

The segment by Fox News Chicago was certainly flawed in research methodology, and narrow in representative scope, but it did succeed in engaging the thinking process, which is essential to spirited debate and a functioning Republic.

$120 million dollars is a lot of money, and I would love to see a follow-up report where Fox News Chicago investigates where the money goes.  Fiscal responsibility is a must in these slim times.

Jim Tobin thinks that libraries are obsolete, and that most of the money spent on libraries are for salaries and pensions.  I had a chuckle when I read that Fox News Chicago thought that some money allocated to libraries could be used for the CTA, policemen or other government pensions!  That makes no sense, take pensions away from one employee and give it to another?  That still doesn’t solve anything, and if we close libraries we will have even more unemployed people.  But this time, they might not have anywhere to go.

Still, it could be worse, it could be the Library of Congress with a budget of over $600 million dollars.