Recognize that man? It’s David Beckham, crying from exhaustion after England lost to Portugal on penalties. You can watch it. It remember the pain of it. I had spent 2 hours on a bar stool in my England shirt, watching the game waste away, my stomach churning, knowing it was going to end up like 2004 at the Euro Cup. Actually, sitting here watching it is bringing back those nauseating memories, but then so again is the state of libraries.
Not just any libraries, though I wouldn’t go so far to say we’re all doing well in the library sector. Obviously we’re all struggling, but let’s be honest – some are in a harder spot that others. I touched upon this before, when people talked about “big tent librarianship”, which is really just public and academic. Where’s the government, corporate, and other special libraries? We’re largely invisible.
Well, things only continue to get worse. In my narrow slice of the world, transportation libraries are suffering even more. The fact that finding is drying up hasn’t helped, and organizations are trying to figure out what’s essential and not. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York all recently had brinksmanship tests where the states (almost) shutdown and several libraries were slated for the chopping block. California is it’s own special brand of crazy political and fiscal confusion.
The new reality is that nothing safe and the situations can change in the moment. On one hand, you can grow to accept it and become numb to it. “Oh, you’re closing the library… huh.” It’s a terrible state to be in, but I really can’t see it ending any time soon, at least not until the nation and its states figure their budget situation in a sustainable way. The problem is, I have little faith in it being done in a way that won’t impede future growth.
I’ll concede that libraries as we knew them are a luxury. I think about my library and I recognize there were things we have done, and some that we still do, that are nice but not necessary. This is in part because our users and technologies change, and we need to change with that. I just don’t think all agencies grok what their libraries can do for them. That lack of understanding is not helping anybody.
I’ve been quiet here because of this exhaustion. It’s a bleak time, but it isn’t something that we should hide and try to ignore. There are several libraries around this nation on the brink, and I just don’t think people get it or seem to care. I know we all have our problems. I just feel sick to my stomach as I wonder which will be the next agency axing its library, and knowing that it’s inevitable like England losing on penalties, and there’s not much I can do about it other than hope it’s not me (again).
English midfielder David Beckham reacts after being injured during the World Cup 2006 quarter final football game England vs. Portugal.