This past week, county officials in Buffalo announced that 75% of the library's funding was going to be eliminated next year. As a library director, I know that such action would be a disaster. I'm certainly not up to speed on what is going on in Buffalo politics, but I suspect that there is another story to tell. It is a time-honored practice for cities to threaten fire trucks and for schools to threaten sports when funding gets tight. For a county to threaten its public library is not so common. Still I know that if this proposal sticks library service in Buffalo comes to an end. Restoring those cuts won't be easy and if buildings, staffing and collections are are allowed to deteriorate and rot away then even a few years at reduced levels of funding will mean decades of work to restore.
But thinking for myself and my Library, I think that we have a greater threat. What if they actually go through with their threats and make those cuts? What does it mean if they actually get away with it? Public libraries are one of the most valued community resources. People will howl if the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library dies. Could "success" at closing one library enbolded other elected officials? I fear that they might Could public libraries survive without government funding? I doubt it. Quality library service cannot be done on a shoestring budget.