Tragedies And Triumphs
There was a time when American Libraries would cover just about every threatened library service cutback or closure that the editors got wind of—in those days, those unimaginable, offbeat stories were what riveted readers. But in 2009 in Libraryland, what used to be unimaginable became all too commonplace, and some of the most shocking stories were about the rare libraries that overcame their budget woes, such as the impressive 72% yes vote of the first-ever millage for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and Philly's dramatic, 11th-hour turnaround, avoiding "Doomsday" and keeping the nation's oldest public library open.
But avoiding Doomsday is not the same thing as defeating it, Philadelphians soon learned. So did library boosters across the country as a number of communities found themselves in similar circumstances.
In each case, advocates drew lines in the proverbial sand when officials announced cutbacks, budget-makers capitulated for the short-term, and library backers began strategizing how to avert the next inevitable crisis. The California town of Colton stood up to municipal budget-makers when they abruptly shut down both public libraries with one day's notice; within a month, the facilities reopened on a reduced schedule. Several months earlier, residents of suburban Atlanta's Gwinnett County forced the library board to back off a plan to shutter several branches and the determined constituency of a financially destitute town south of Chicago inspired a fundraising effort that kept their only library open, albeit on a shoe-string.