Friday, April 29, 2011

That's right, it's budget crisis time!

I feel like I talk about this a little bit each year with colleagues or concerned friends.This year it's constant. That's right, it's budget crisis time!

I was recently introduced to someone going into library school this semester. My first reaction was to ask him why he was doing it (it was a career change). Next I asked if he planned on working full-time when he finished school (valid question/joke).  It ended up being a very interesting conversation: I got to talk about my “library experience” to someone brand new. Somehow, this was the accidental point I got across to him… I have been certified librarian since September 2008 and I did not receive my first professional title until 4 months ago. I know others in a similar circumstance. I don’t mean for this to be a sob story; I do take a burden of the blame. I had a great job while in school and after, I wasn’t in a rush to leave, (seriously, I played with toys). I was also not flexible enough to move to a new city. I'm sure there are other reasons I wasn’t hired at the other positions I interviewed for, I'm not perfect. BUT, I also blame it on the availability of jobs. In Rochester there is a civil service list that feels a mile long. Next, you have to factor in the amount of graduating students every semester. This means that you have a huge pot of competition for approximately 6 jobs a year. Maybe 2 of them are full-time. And here is the second “but”. This is not discouragement to go into this field. Even in Rochester.

The economy sucks. Still. And libraries are still getting sucked into it. Even though more people are using the library because they're becoming money conscious... We’re not getting any more funding because we’re needed more. We're getting it taken away. The scariest thing I have read was an article in which it compared Rochester to Detroit, saying that "quality-of-life services were the first thing to go." It was the beginning of the end for Detroit, does that mean we're next?

I refuse to let myself get in a tizzy about the budget problems. I believe our city will always find a way. Every year there is a scare for the community and library staff and every year they fix it. I'm 10 years in; I am fluent in the language of budget distress. I was all good until one night when I was in a meeting with other YA librarians from the city branches. There are 3 libraries on the chopping block, Highland, Charlotte and Winton Rd. One of Highland's librarians was at that table. Winton Rd is where I grew up, where I went to story time, where I returned my overdue books. It's where I spent almost 5 years working. Where I have always wanted to work again. Charlotte is that library for the other librarian at the table... At the end of the conversation this question crept in... "How would we even dismantle a library?" And my heart broke. 

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