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by Jim Hightower
In the depths of the Great Depression, not a single public library in America
closed its doors. Banks went under, farmers went bankrupt, millions of people
were out of work and out of luck––but the American public clung to its
libraries, not only because of their inherent value to our society, but also
because they are symbols of community strength and hope.
How lame, then,
to see public officials today––from George W. Bush to city council
members––reaching for the budget axe to whack library funding, forcing branches
to close, valuable services to be eliminated, and hours to be cut. In a time of
unprecedented wealth in America, in a time when governments dump billions of
taxpayer dollars into corporate subsidies and boondoggles, our so-called leaders
are failing the people by going after these true public treasures.
out Salinas, California––a hard hit working-class city which is now the largest
population in America without a public library. Ironically, this is the hometown
of John Steinbeck, the prize-winning author of The Grapes of Wrath and other
powerful works that chronicled the human spirit during the depression years.
Steinbeck knew that literature has the power to elevate the spirit and help
people rise above difficult times, and it is said that he got some of his early
exposure to the power of literature at the Salinas library.
Steinbeck's day, Salinas expanded to three branch libraries, one named after
him. But now, all three have been closed by the city council, which is facing
large budget deficits. This move shuts out the 1,900 people a day who count on
the library for books, literacy courses, Internet access, after-school programs,
and other services. Also, nearly three dozen employees have been shown the
This is Jim Hightower saying...This is not a Salinas story, but a
failure of all public leadership. Why are they dumping billions into Bush's Star
Wars boondoggle, for example, while public libraries, which provide essential
services that keep America informed and enlightened are forced to go begging?
Sources: "Steinbeck's Hometown to Close
Libraries." CNN.com, December 27, 2004.
Copyright - Saddleburr Productions, Inc
Reprinted with the author's consent.
Posted February 05, 2005
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