Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fahrenheit 451: Too Close to Home

Maybe you have heard?

It has been recommended to our county board of supervisors, to close all of our county libraries, as of June 30th.........half the branches as of June 23rd.

I cannot believe I was lying awake at 5:30 this morning, writing, in my mind, a letter to the Board of Supervisors regarding the closure of our libraries.

“I must make haste then in order to be emotional, and be emotional in order to be very truthful indeed.”~~~~~Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I arose from bed, and set to putting the words to the keyboard. Not much different from Bradbury, sitting in the basement of the UCLA library in the 1950's, writing his novel about firemen whose job it is not to put out fires, but to burn those books forbidden by the totalitarian regime.

Brave New World, The Giver, and Fahrenheit 451. Three pieces of literature in which the common citizen certainly has no control over what they are allowed to read, if they are allowed to read at all. It is ironic that I find inspiration to write this letter in a book I have borrowed from the County Library. Book burning? A thing of the past, belonging to Hitler or the dystopias of futuristic books? Or, to a Communist country? I had thought so. Sadly, perhaps not.

In 1966, Ray Bradbury wrote in his introduction to Fahrenheit 451 regarding his childhood experiences with libraries: “It followed then that when Hitler burned a book I felt it as keenly, please forgive me, as his killing a human, for in the long sum of history they are one and the same flesh. Mind or body, put to the oven, is a sinful practice.”

A young, ignorant friend, not a fellow bibliophile, told me: "It’s not as if they (Board of Supervisors) are making it illegal to read literature or are burning books." Well, yes, figuratively, and perhaps practically as well, it is. I would even go so far as to call it censorship. If we cannot have access to the books at the library, and if they are only going to save the books some random person deems necessary, we are being forbidden to read these books at this time. How is it that one county administrator and five supervisors, are emboldened with the capacity to actually close our county libraries? Wait, make that three supervisors. Two, Grace B. and Ed V., have up to this moment not supported the closing of the libraries. The saving of a small amount of money now, is an enormous waste of all the money the county has chosen to spend in the past decades, to fill our libraries with the resources its communities need or desire.

By closing the library system in our county, our citizens will no longer have available to them, the resources others in this world will have. This is a certain disadvantage, the dumbing down of our populace.

I am sure they do not take this lightly, this step backwards. But, it is taken selfishly. It is not taken for those people who voted them into office, but for themselves, to make a temporary budget work a bit better, barely. We are all aware that we live in a poor county, monetarily. But, do we want to live in an intellectually poor county, as well?

Is it possible that our elected officials could not even begin on their own to look for alternatives? Did they bother to ask their constituents what they would desire? Could the Board have created a committee of volunteers to create ideas to make the library system work, instead of giving one month’s death sentence for our libraries?

According to a recent article in the local paper, several libraries receive monies from their respective cities for utilities and building upkeep. Could we not continue to do something like this, keep our libraries open for less hours, use volunteers to man the libraries? Has anyone asked each community what they would be willing to do to keep their library open, before they consider the decision to close? There are solutions.

A friend mentioned to me that we the people do not have access to the whole budget. How are we 3.7 million dollars short? Where are we short? What are the salaries of the people in our county government? Where else do the people think we can cut? Why are the people told, not requested, to make the immense sacrifice of giving up our libraries (as well as money to the fire districts)?

Our family is one of many in Siskiyou County who educates through an Independent Study program at a local school. The library is an absolutely vital resource for these families to educate. Absolutely vital. There will be no way to function adequately without access to the resources provided, paid for through decades of public monies. Our money. Our parents’ and grandparents’ money. It is tragic that my youngest children would not receive the same high quality literature-based education that their older siblings enjoyed.

An older lady, with whom I am acquainted, lives in a very rural area of our county. She says the elderly there are devastated by the possibility of the closure of their small library. It is horrid to think these folks have paid their dues, their taxes, through all of these years, only to find one of their most important avenues of enjoying their later years, taken from them.

I realize many people think there is a small, vocal group of citizens making a lot of noise to “Save Our Libraries,” but they are representatives of the many too shy, busy or unsure of themselves to speak up. I am grateful for those willing to stand up for the rest of us. Please hear them. Please heed them.

Bradbury says books are “flesh and blood ideas.” Having been a very active patron our local branch for over twenty years, I can tell you it is a living, breathing being…..so busy the librarians could barely keep up the work required to keep it alive. Grief is what follows death and loss. This we shall have, with the closures of our libraries. I could not live with that decision. To be known forever in history as "the Board who closed the library."

In his introduction, Ray Bradbury further wrote, “For while Senator McCarthy is dead, the Red Guard in China comes alive and idols are smashed and books all over again, are thrown into the furnace. So it will go, one generation printing, another generation burning, yet another remembering what is good to remember so as to print again.”

Have we really come to this again?

Heartbroken bibliophile from Hearts' Haven,


St. Jerome

Patron Saint of Libraries

Pray for us!!!!


Happily Married Couple said...

This is one of the best posts by far and very important. I never thought about those who supported and donated time and energy. There ARE solutions. I'd bet you could find 30 people to work one day a month as a volunteer, you could get families to donate books to either use or sale, the infamous pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners, everyone donate a dollar, kids collecting pennies... the list goes on.

Willa said...

I felt bad for the elderly people who depend on having a library close by. I never thought of that aspect of it.

Our library is open for 3 hours, 3 times a week. It's hard to believe something like that couldn't be afforded by the county!

The Broussards said...

I must disagree with you and side with your young constitutionally-aware friend. No one, least of all the government, is deciding which books you can and cannot read. It is simply being recognized that the taxpayers are not obligated to purchase and provide books for everyone. While I enjoy the use of the library, I find your argument no different than those that argue that the government, or more specifically taxpayers, should be responsible for each person’s personal pet projects. If the community really wants a library, but there are limited funds to keep it running, then this same community must choose between cutting services elsewhere and giving of their own time to keep it in operation.