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CU Podcast #22: Save Ohio Libraries

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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In this week’s ColumbusUnderground.com Podcast, we sit down to chat with Jeff Regensburger from the Northwest Library, Angel Gondek of the Educational Resource Center at Columbus State, and Rachel Rubin from the Old Worthington Library. Together, we discuss the proposed state budget cuts that would have deep impacts upon our library systems throughout Ohio.

To find out ways that you can help, please visit SaveOhioLibraries.com and ColumbusLibrary.org.

You can use the player below to listen to the podcast, click here to download an mp3, click here to subscribe via iTunes, or click here to subscribe to the rss feed.

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  • mrsgeedeck

    There will be a rally for library funding held at the Statehouse tomorrow, 6/25/09.

  • Good interview Walker. It really stresses the disaster that would happen if small town libraries in Ohio were forced to close.

  • mrsosu21

    Awesome interview! Thank you so much for doing this!

  • One other thought I had after we wrapped up is similar to my concern with city budget cuts shutting down Rec Centers. Even if you don’t utilize public libraries yourself, they’re a valuable community asset and help provide things for kids to do, which can help keep them off the street and out of trouble. We used to frequent the Parsons Branch of the CML quite a bit and there were always kids in there on the computers, reading books, and whatnot. Sure, they weren’t all doing research or homework or anything, but they also weren’t outside getting into trouble.

  • catnfiddle

    This was wonderfully informative.  Thanks to all participants!

  • The day isn’t over, but I will say that according to our stats so far, we’ve had more first-day listeners to this podcast than any other we’ve put up. Sounds like everyone wants their libraries saved! Hopefully that is translating to letter writing and phone calls!

  • Librarians and supporters – please get real already! Libraries are wonderful, but lives are not at risk if their funding is cut. That’s not so for the less sexy Medicaid funding cuts that you library supporters don’t want to think about. If library funding is cut by 50%, that still leaves 50%. Would libraries cut services or close up shop altogether? So if they close, do they give back that other 50% or what?

    No one responded in another thread when I mentioned that libraries that have local support levies will not be nearly as affected as those that only rely on state support. Cincinnati, the largest library system in the state does not get any support from Cincinnatians. Maybe they don’t really want a library. At least I don’t think we all should pay for them to have one when they don’t even support it locally?

    I love our libraries, but they are not as important as health and safety. They just aren’t; and all this activism is so blinded that it sickens me.

    Most of you seem to want to save libraries because you use them, and you don’t bother with saving dental and vision care in Medicaid because you don’t need it. Must be nice. /rant

  • joev Says: I love our libraries, but they are not as important as health and safety.

    I understand your argument, and agree with you to some extent, but it sounds like you’re making some pretty big assumptions in there as well. I think everyone has their own reasons for supporting what they want to support.

    Personally, I’d argue that education (libraries) is more important than police (safety) in the long-term big picture. But that’s probably a whole different conversation to be saved for another time.

  • mrsgeedeck

    joev Says: I love our libraries, but they are not as important as health and safety. They just aren’t; and all this activism is so blinded that it sickens me.

    If you want to be an activist for Medicaid, no one is stopping you. I am a librarian, so I’m advocating for what I know intimately about. I know exactly what these kinds of cuts mean for libraries. I can read up on how these cuts can effect Medicaid, but I haven’t seen their budget figures or projections to speak on that with any authority.

    I agree that there needs to be a drastic change in the way libraries are funded so they rely less on State funds, but I don’t think a two week notice is the way to go about enacting that.

  • “Personally, I’d argue that education (libraries) is more important than police (safety) in the long-term big picture. But that’s probably a whole different conversation to be saved for another time.”

    and a whole different budget ;)

    I would be happy to stand in line and fight for the survival of libraries…the minute after we’ve saved the 14,000 kids losing their pre-school, the thousands of people losing their jobs, and the dozens of medical centers and mental health facilities that are closing.

  • A few thousand more would be losing their jobs if the libraries closed. It’s an ugly time, all these people fighting for what they perceive as being theirs to keep. Someone is going to be lose, and there will be a lot of hurting.

  • jungaroo

    I don’t think we should go down the road of arguing which cause or issue is more important than another. As Walker said, each of us for our own reasons have strong feelings or connections to particular issues, whether it’s libraries or health or environment or animal rights or 9/11 or a cure for cancer or global poverty… and so on.

    The case for libraries, or at least what inspires me, is that they represent aspirations beyond just being healthy and safe. How about intellectual freedom, democracy, and access to a wider world? I admit my biases. I grew up in a tough neighborhood in the Bronx and the library was a haven. I didn’t have health problems then so I don’t have a personal connection to that as a child. And all of the kids in the neighborhood had some distrust of the NYPD; even I (yeah, me of all people) had a couple uneasy encounters just for hanging out.

    Compared to other public or social services, the library is the one place where you are not required to fill out a litany of forms or face an interview process to determine if you qualify. You’re just accepted as you are. There’s something to that.

  • @jungaroo – with a very limited pool of money to fight for, arguing which causes are most important is EXACTLY what we should be doing. Put your “personal” issues aside and try to see what’s best for society as a whole. When you do that, libraries, as great as they are, fall way down the list.

  • Here are just some of the things that make libraries valuable for society as a whole:


  • When I have I ever infered that libraries aren’t valuable?  Of course they are. They’re just not as valuable as other budget line items, like Medicaid. I think it’s pretty impossible to argue otherwise.

  • Andrew Hall

    I agree with Core.

    I will also repeat what I said in the other thread – I hope that the library industry will put as much effort into creative financing as they are into lobbying.


  • jungaroo

    @joev I was trying to get more at why people connect with particular issues. You’re right that the discussion is different when it’s specifically about public dollars (e.g. versus me donating time or money). But even in that context, I think libraries deliver important value. One example is the library as an after-school venue and service provider for kids, helping kids stay out of trouble and supporting their education. Libraries are a long-term investment that may not have the urgency of many health/safety programs, but if we want a more prosperous and equitable future, then they are a key element.

  • Andrew Hall

    I see a lot more commitment to the idea of a library than to the ideal of a library.

    There is a lot of spin and conflation of a library with community center, daycare, juvie hall, etc. While I am not in dispute with those goals, I can’t help but notice that the librarian community was not manning the barricades when fundings for those were cut. Right now, there is a big selling of some quasi-romantic, quasi-liberal, social safety net of the physical plant of the library.

    The ideals of the library are being understated in the concern for the current physical manifestations of the library. If not immediately, in the very near future I can see it as a more economic way to attain the library goals by almost eliminating physical facilities and getting community members a Kindle and Netflix account. I see lobbying action to maintain the status quo, but very little planning action to go beyond.

    I think the funding model (not just for libraries, but for all kinds of public goods) of relying on government largess and putting effort into getting a share of the dole is a relic. It seems to be hip and trendy to mock corporate sponsorship, but that is really just trading compulsory funding for voluntary – and that is just one example. I hope the library community takes this challenge as opportunity to re-model, re-examine and get stronger in the service of its ideals. The old model rewards lobbying for the status quo, as I mentioned above, not innovation and forward-thinking.


    And, as a little gasoline on the, I will relate what a friend and I came up with in an exchange :

    The librarian is a old creation. It is not unlike the old-fashioned phone operater of ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000’ fame or a telegraph keyer – the artifact of inefficiencies in the system. Eliminate the technical barriers of information exchange, you eliminate the need for libraries and librarians.

  • Andrew Hall wrote:
    “Eliminate the technical barriers of information exchange, you eliminate the need for libraries and librarians.”

    Good luck with that. You might as well add teachers to that list. A barrier is just a barrier.

    Eliminate the spiritual barriers of divine exchange, you eliminate the need for religion.

    Hey, wait a minute I like this model!

  • mstimple

    @joev… Obviously haven’t had much interaction with the average medicaid person like have.  There’s nothing better than being talked down to at your place of employment as if you’re the high school dropout with 6 kids by 5 different men, 4 of whom are in jail; all the while sitting there in your drive through driving a way nicer car than you do, a cigarette hanging from the mouth, and about 60 pounds overweight.  Medicaid is a bloated welfare program whose recipients have virtually no restraints on their use of the program and it constitues the number one expenditure of state tax dollars.

    At least by supporting libraries, we are giving people the proverbial oppurtunity to teach themselves to fish so they can eat for life rather than giving them more welfare/entitlements such as medicaid so they can eat for a day.   My money would go to libraries anyday.

  • @mstimple Wow. How incredibly condescending. Please take those comments to the Dispatch where I’m sure you’ll find plenty of people who agree with your bigotry.
    Yes, I do have interaction with many people on Medicaid, and many uninsured people who aren’t even eligible for it (immigrants.)  I know Medicaid is a worthwhile program. It’s costly and it can certianly be improved, but to characterize Medicaid recipients the way you did is really ignorant.
    Sick people without insurance cost the rest of us much more than sick people with insurance, even if the goverment is paying for the insurance. Libraries are wonderful institutions, but they don’t heal the sick.

  • I would say cutting the budgets of 400 out of the 614 school districts in the state would hurt people’s ability to learn to fish more than losing a library.  I would say 14,000 kids losing the early education opportunity in pre-school would hurt it more as well.

    By the way, I also think that learning to fish is great…eating is also great, and food pantries are also on the substantial cuts list.

  • The line item that funds gifted and talented programs in elementary schools also was recommended for elimination. The rich districts might still be able to afford that, but poor districts won’t. That

  • Thank you all for this discussion. I don’t usually like soap-boxes, but I do want to address this:

    “The librarian is a old creation. It is not unlike the old-fashioned phone operater of ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000′ fame or a telegraph keyer – the artifact of inefficiencies in the system. Eliminate the technical barriers of information exchange, you eliminate the need for libraries and librarians.”

    This is an old and narrow conception of what libraries do. And this is our fault– we have done a terrible job as a profession marketing how we are actually used and how we see ourselves.  A recent study by OCLC found that overwhelmingly, people see the library brand as “books.” Although this is not surprising to those of us in the profession, it is disheartening. Yes, we are in the market of providing access to books, but we also provide access to so much more. Contrary to popular belief, not everything is accessible on the free web. Libraries spend thousands of dollars to provide the public with access to online journal content and educational software packages like Learning Express Library and Mango Languages.  We teach people to sign up for e-mail accounts, fill out job applications online, and search job super sites. Shocking numbers of people come to us not knowing how to do this– and where else can they go for help? The library is also a “third place”– we are a community center. We are a place people can meet for free.

    People come to us when their online searches are unfruitful and we help them find what they are looking for. Now more than ever people need librarians: the overwhelming amount of information (often inaccurate information) brings people to us when they can no longer navigate, interpret, or gauge accuracy.  And there continues to be a huge digital divide in this country. So much of our world revolves around online information, and for many, the public library is the only way for them to learn the skills and/or have access to that technology.  The educational system is clearly under duress– libraries work with groups like Head Start to take on trying to address Kindergarden readiness.  We fill gaps.

    There is no place, publicly funded or otherwise, that serves the vast range of people and their needs that libraries do.
    We are the people’s university, we are a safe haven, we are a repository of cultural knowledge, we are teachers, we are entertainers, we provide access to otherwise inaccessible content,  we provide access to technology, we are a place to meet and build community.  Libraries are an essential part of a community’s safety net– together with mental health programs, social services, and educational institutions, we keep communities vital. Community health relies on a healthy system– there must be a way to continue to keep all the parts of the system healthy. Otherwise we condemn ourselves to a bleak future.

  • mtcook78

    @joey, core, andrew

    Spend more time advocating your causes and less time criticizing those of us who support ours.  Ohio has and should continue to have one of the best funding systems for public libraries.  That is why areas such as Cincinnati haven’t had to raise levies for the public library system there.  Keep in mind that State funding extends to public libraries all across Ohio, not just to Cincinnati.  I really wonder why Cincinnati has even been singled out.

    If any of you argue that the fundamental problem with the library funding system is that it is done so through the state, then that is merely a matter of politics and philosophy.  I will always support state funding of public libraries wherever I live and I would not wish any less for any other place. 

    The one very important thing that I would like to point out is that if I do not agree with the proposed cuts to public library funding, it does not mean I agree with any other cuts.  I do not agree with the proposed cuts that will negatively affect any of our state mental health or other health related programs.  I do not agree with cuts in funding to early education programs. 

    If cuts are necessary, are there any other places besides these vital public programs which could be clipped? 

    Saying that one cause MUST lose for another to survive only pits us against one another. It just makes people angry and defensive.  Why aren’t you writing and phoning and spreading the word like mad to save your programs instead of spending your time telling us why our cause for public libraries is of less value?  If you get the word out as much as the public libraries and their supporters have, you could do a lot of good.  I don’t really believe you want to do good though.

    As for libraries healing the sick, you really should have come to the library funding rally at the Statehouse.  A few brave souls who spoke were able to relate experiences where the libraries were essential with getting information for the care of their sick.

    Now I implore you get the word out for your causes.  Make the case for the sick and our state’s programs for children.  If I knew there were a rally in defense of your programs, I would do my best to make the event or spread the word, even though I know I might run into any one of you.

    The library community is very committed and passionate about the cause.  They are also very well informed and very very good at coming together on issues.  You might learn something from them.  You might even gain their support.  Just don’t be so jealous.

  • Andrew Hall

    Thank you TFL for an engaged and intelligent response. You are a credit to your profession and I admire your passion.

    To the other poster : The paucity of your arguments is clearly demonstrated by your need to engage in personal attacks and cast aspersions at those who disagree with you.


  • mtcook78

    I am happy to have a chance to voice my support for public libraries by opposing the proposed funding cuts.  I am also very happy to hear Portsmouth Public libraries mentioned in this podcast. 
    There are actually six libraries in that system, but they are far between.  Two of the Libraries, the Lucasville and Northwest branches, are rural libraries that have played a large role in supporting the public schools in their districts. 
    I worry that if funding is cut to the Portsmouth Library system, they will have to cut vital programs for their communities and may struggle to support the local schools with the branch libraries.  Its in smaller or often less affluent areas, such as Lucasville and Northwest, where I fear the cuts will cause the most harm.  People in those areas rely on their local public libraries as they have the public schools for years, and often it is only because of state funding that a lot of these places are able to continue providing services at all.
    The Portsmouth Public Libraries recently had a successful rally to spread the word about the potential harm of funding cuts.  If you are interested, you can see some photographs of their rally at http://www.yourppl.org.
    I’ve been hearing that this fight for library funding is far from over.  I will continue to give my support for this cause. 

  • Suburban libraries cut hours, employees to cope
    Wednesday,  July 29, 2009 3:11 AM

    At least a couple of suburban library systems might ask voters to approve new local taxes after state cuts decimated their budgets. Almost all libraries are set to cut hours, eliminate Sunday service, lay off employees and pare wages. They will buy fewer titles and fewer copies.


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