You know what? I give up.
I have become a downright miserable human being since I started again reading newspapers. I swore them off in college, largely ignored them in the two years afterward, and more or less forget they existed while living in Skagway. Now I’ve got a four-paper-a-day habit and it’s killing me as insidiously as any cigarette.
Here’s what I learned today in the Providence Journal: The city of West Warwick has the seventh highest rate of poverty in Rhode Island. A proposal to assuage the bleeding budget involves axe-murdering the library, by laying off 7 out of 11 full-time workers and 13 out of 16 part-timers, cutting weekly hours from 52 to 27, and eliminating computer classes, family literacy programs and elderly outreach. The West Warwick library stands to lose 40% of their total funding, as drastic cuts at the town level renders the institution ineligible for any state aid (currently, $171,000).
Excuse me for a moment, but
It’s killing me, and not just on a personal level. As much as I dislike people I’m actually a pretty big fan of humanity. How the hell are people supposed to get ahead? Two weeks ago almost to the day the ProJo ran this article about the West Warwick Job Club which meets at the very same library. The unemployed and underemployed gather one night a week for job-seeking tips, to search the job bank posted and updated at the library, and to find simple support and validation, taking heart in knowing they are not alone in difficult times. The Job Club is among those programs that would be lost under the proposed cuts.
Funnily, the next five-week session of the Job Club starts tonight.
I repeat: How are people supposed to get ahead when all of their resources are being yanked out from beneath them? I really feel for the elderly these days; it is almost impossible to live day-to-day without having to interact with some sort of information technology, and computer programs like the one at West Warwick can teach them valuable skills for adapting to a rapidly-changing digital world. Under-privileged patrons also benefit from using public computers, especially for job searching, posting and printing resumes. I had to apply online for a part-time Borders retail clerk job and I’m lucky enough to have had a patron saint buy me an excellent computer a few years back. Other people don’t have these resources at their fingertips, and even those who have computers can’t necessarily afford the monthly internet bill: When I volunteered at one of the local village libraries I heard tales of patrons who gave up their internet at home because they know they can pop down the street and use the library’s.
And yeah, people also use the public internet for YouTube and facebook and other less-than-educational purposes, but so what? Frankly we could all use a laugh lately, and don’t we all possess the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness? That’s what the sign-in sheet is for, to try to make sure everyone gets a shot at a computer.
Now let’s get personal. I worked part-time at a bookstore for three months which gave me a 33% staff discount, and I never bought a book (until the going-out-of business sale, but that’s another story). 33% off a paperback is still a $5.90 paperback after Rhode Island sales tax, and back then I was putting about $10 into my gas tank every day I drove. When I get down to it I can read a book a day; will forgo cooking meals and stop only long enough to walk the dog; have had serious anxiety over not having enough books for a long weekend or overnight trip, and still I never bought a book. I know nearly anything I want to read, plus some really cool out-of-print stuff, is available through the Ocean State Libraries network for free.
I can’t see any book lover feeding a family buying an eight-dollar paperback once a week or shelling out twenty-five for the latest hardcover bestseller. Movie lovers are giving up Netflix and cable television. And libraries are forced to cut into their resource budgets, meaning less circulating copies and less new material coming in.
To say nothing of what this means on the job front, for me and for others who were bamboozled into thinking there were plenty of library jobs upcoming. I’m pretty disgusted and I’ve more or less given up on the job hunt for the foreseeable future. I’m unhirable as a clerk because I have a degree and I’m unhirable as a librarian because I don’t have experience. Everything I learned has atrophied and all my skills have decayed because there’s only so much I can do volunteering behind the desk of my local library. Also, that high school kid next to me really needs community service hours to graduate.
How is anyone supposed to get ahead? The Westerly Sun tells me there’s no middle class in Southeastern Connecticut; the New York Times runs the same articles as the Providence Journal about escalating gas prices edging out any economic gain Americans were making as we supposedly crawl out on our bellies out of the mud of this recession.
The Boston Globe reports the Boston Public Library is discussing the closing of four branch libraries, doing away with Sunday hours, and leaving 15 job vacancies unfilled.
Do they make a patch for newspaper addiction?