Open books

Let’s get one thing straight between us: Libraries are not a luxury.

Libraries belong in the Parks and Recreation budget about like hiking trails belong in Regional Transportation.

So now we hear that more draconian budget cuts are coming down from Washoe County, and a little birdie from the libraries called to say they may look like this:

Sierra View Library, Reno Town Mall (closed); North Valleys Library (closed); Senior Center library (closed); the mobile library (closed) and the two partnership libraries, Duncan Traner (closed) and Verdi (closed). Even after those closures, library staff is looking at a 36-40 percent decrease. What a great idea, cut the services to those who are least likely to complain, like the senior citizens who use the Washoe County Senior Center.

That’s on top of voluntary employee furloughs, personnel cuts, 2.5 percent salary reductions, frozen hiring, wage freezes, book budget reduction and periodical reductions.

It looks as though the Washoe County Commission will be voting on these new budget cuts on March 18, with the proposed changes coming down the pike on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Both the Washoe County Commissioners and the Library Board of Trustees can be reached through the Washoe County website, It’s extremely important that readers who do not want to see library hours, staff and facilities cut back call their Washoe County Commissioner at 328-2005.

Can we say this again very clearly: Libraries are not just places with books.

In these uncertain, but certainly bad, economic times, people are forced to use the library for things like internet access to look for jobs. Those computer terminals are often full, and they’re likely to have lines behind them, as families have to choose between internet access and food.

Homeschoolers, too, use the libraries as places to meet to compare notes and work together.

If the utility of libraries during tough economic times needed more proof, check-ins (book, video returns) have doubled in recent months at some library branches. It’s as simple as this: When people who used to think nothing about going to Sundance Books to pick up the latest Stephen King novel lose their jobs, they will go to the library. Those people who used to drop a dollar in the Red Box are now going to the library to pick up a DVD.

The economy has already lost those purchases; does it really need more people unemployed through more county layoffs? Does this economy really need more people unable to access the tools the modern age requires for job searches?

The bottom line is this: Libraries are a modern necessity. Call your Washoe County commissioner and demand he or she keep the libraries open.