It seems that the County Library is the topic of the week! This letter will appear in the Bridgeton News tomorrow morning:
To the Editor:
Once again the county freeholders are looking to cut the budget and once again they are looking at shuttering the Cumberland County Library.
George I. Anderson recently questioned why the county library is always the first on the chopping block. I too wonder why.
Some argue that libraries are passé, as everything is now available on the web, while others argue that the county has too many public libraries. However, everything is not available on the web and not everyone has internet access — indeed many visit the library in order to get this access.
Furthermore, four public libraries (Cumberland County, Bridgeton, Millville, Vineland) in a county of approximately 160,000 people, spread out in 14 municipalities over 677 square miles is not excessive.
Besides being a repository of information, the library also serves as a refuge for those looking to study. I have fond (well, it didn’t seem so fond at the time) memories of studying at the library, struggling with things like chemistry’s Avogadro’s number, algebra’s quadratic equation, and English literature’s Chaucer.
I have recently visited the county library and still see it as that place where people are coming to better themselves. The unemployed come looking to fill out job applications, children to learn, the less fortunate to use technologies and services that they cannot afford. These patrons are ably assisted by a library staff, even though this staff has had a stressful sword of potential unemployment dangling over their heads.
There are well-known, disturbing trends in Cumberland County of its citizens being less and less educated and thus poorer and poorer (and not just financially). Those who use the library are fighting these trends; those who close the library will feed these trends.
A cynical explanation as to why the library is always on the chopping block is that a large proportion of the library’s user-base is not politically connected. Children cannot vote; the less fortunate don’t contribute to political campaigns; and your average citizen is just too busy to be involved in the political process. However, the freeholders should consider this familiar quote (I don’t know who first said it — maybe someone at the library can help me?): “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
Our freeholders claim that they are simply making the tough choices needed to balance the books in these difficult times. However, if they truly want to make a tough choice, then they should declare that the library is no longer on the chopping block.
Furthermore, they should make another tough choice by finding the savings to save the library from those who are politically connected by having less political appointees on the county payroll and hiring fewer politically-connected consultants.
During these difficult times, the county should be investing in its libraries, not walking away from them.