No, this isn’t going to happen everywhere in rural and small-town America if Donald Trump wins the presidency. But most likely we’ll see more of it, given his hostility to books and learning.
All three public library branches in Perry County in Mississippi are shutting down. The county supervisors have decided not to fund their share of the budget for the Pine Forest Regional Library system, which also runs libraries in Greene and Stone Counties. The big reason given by Perry County supervisors for the closure? Cutbacks in in state and federal funding. The politicians likewise talk of “unfunded state and federal mandates.”
Wait. The plot thickens. TV station WDAM tells us that the supervisors “also said the regional library did not submit a budget request nor has it presented year-end financial statements or reports to the county in several years, even though it is required by law to do.” Charles Cox, director of Pine Forest, reportedly replied that “a request had been gone out to the supervisors. He also said the library system has been audited several times and those reports have been presented to the library Board of Trustees as required.”
Were there financial irregularities? Who knows? But whatever’s going on, libraries obviously are not that high on Perry County’s list of priorities. Look at this photo showing the interior of the library in Richton in Perry County. Not exactly a library palace. While the supervisors have said that they may revisit the issue in the future, there’ll be no funding for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Now think nationally. Do you understand what a Trump win could mean to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which, with an annual budget of just $230 million, is pretty much underfunded anyway? Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has even called in the past for the end of IMLS. That could mean yet more damage to America’s rural systems.
“When you take away” libraries, WDAM quoted Cox, “it hurts a community.” People lose “an opportunity to have the ability, for example, to look for jobs, go online, take care of their taxes, get an education, find information that they need, even be entertained. It’s all taken away at one time.”
Once public libraries were unassailable. William F. Buckley, Jr., the conservative columnist, wrote two “On the Right” columns in favor of my TeleRead vision of a well-stocked national digital library, and were WFB alive today, he undoubtedly would do the same again. But not everyone feels that way about the value of public libraries, either digital or traditional. Boing Boing recently ran the following headline: Douglas County, OR using dirty ballot tricks to finish off the slow murder of its libraries. A few details:
For years, the Douglas County commissioners have reduced the budget of the county’s 11 libraries, serving 100,000 residents, and they’ve vowed to zero out its budget next year, so the library’s supporters got a ballot initiative to create a Special Library District that would keep the doors open — naturally, the county has removed all mention of the initiative from its website, using dirty tricks to finish off its dirty work.
You can read more from the Everylibrary advocacy group and an Oregon public radio station, as well as the News-Review newspaper in Roseburg, Oregon.
I know: taxpayers worry about household expenses and don’t want to pay an extra $100-$200 a year or whatever in property taxes for library service. But maybe more is at work in Mississippi, Oregon and elsewhere in rural and small-town America. Some readers of the News-Review have called for check-out fees, privatization and other measures, but perhaps this gem from a wingnut in Oregon really cuts to the chase even if it isn’t about the library controversy per se:
This letter is in response to the gentleman who thinks a college education, aka brainwashing, from far-left, socialist-leaning professors and liberal art degrees are the most important things anyone has going for them. He obviously has a degree in something and feels he is superior to we “deplorables” as Hillary called us, and with which I assume this gentleman is in agreement.
He is so right, however, in stating that our education system is failing us. They no longer teach about how and why our country came to be, how great it is, right from wrong, etc. They teach things like why Suzie has two mothers, how to use condoms and to be tolerant of everything, when those same teachers/professors are intolerant of everything they don’t believe in. Other countries have said that America will fall from within, and each day we come closer to their prediction.
Sorry, sir, but I would rather have citizens with common sense and who cling to their guns and Bibles on my side any day. With common sense and flexible minds we are able to rationally think things through and come to SENSIBLE conclusions without needing the liberal/socialist biases from today’s colleges.
To hell with free public libraries to prepare kids for college and better-paying jobs. Instead let’s “Make America great again.”
Image credits: Top image is of the Richton library branch in Perry County and is from Google Street View. Library interior shot is from Pine Forest site.
Your logic escapes me. After eight years of Obama, you regard the closing of libraries in Mississippi as evidence of what Trump’s likely to do. I say again, “after eight years of Obama….”
You’d be better advised to look at the crony capitalism of the Obama years, monies that have been taken from the middle class to enrich the nation’s billionaires. The Democrats have become, far away and above, the party of the super-rich. In the 2012 election, you’re down to rich political donor #14 before you’re to someone giving to Republicans and the two oft-demonized Koch brothers came in at #24. The superrich know who is enriching them at our expense.
The same is true for the two Clintons. Do your really think huge financial firms believe that Hillary has so much investment income savvy, they’re willing to pay her $250,000 for a single speech? It’s a down payment on all she’s expected to do from them should she win. Tax breaks for them but not for us. Immunity from prosecution no matter what their crimes. Indeed, Hillary getting off scot-free for her crimes illustrates how her FBI and IRS will operate. Can you spell crooked? As a Democrat, probably not.
Eight years of Obama has meant eight years of Chicago machine politics. Chicago has elected Democratic mayors without exception since 1927, the year Lindburg flew across the Atlantic. What good has that done the city’s poor? Do you want to defend anything about Chicago? Its dreadful public schools? It’s rat-infested public housing? Its hideous crime rate? Its huge budget deficits?
I’m no fan of Trump and don’t plan to vote for him. But for all his flaws, he’s head and shoulders above Hillary, a chronic, pathological liar and a greedy crook. Trump’s often a buffon and what he’ll do as president is extremely uncertain, but he’s right when he says he’s not in the pocket of billionaires. Indeed, he scares them spitless.
More and more, I’m becoming hostile to the welfare state. The result doesn’t help the poor. It corrupts them. They become willing to vote for any scoundrel as long as he gets them their “Obama phone” or whatever. That’s what you see in Chicago. Did you know that Obama got his start in law with a firm whose speciality was defending slumlords with rat-infested apartments? Probably not. That’s not something that upsets liberals. And that perversity is what Obama brought to the nation. It’s also what Hillary will continue for four more years. It’s why those billionaire SOBs are pulling out all the stops to get her reelected.
I note again. Obama was active in Chicago politics for 20 years. He even managed, in his only executive role, a fund that poured $160 million into the city’s schools and that had, by its own admission, no positive impact—other than pushing along his political career. As president he could have done something about the dreadful schools there and in a host of other major, Democratic-party dominated cities. Can you point to anything he has done? No, you can’t. Even worse, you probably don’t feel any need to do so. True believers are untroubles by reality.
You refuse to blame Obama for what he has failed to do over his entire political career, and yet want to blame Trump for a hypothetical of what he might do. If that’s doesn’t fit the classic definition is systemized delusion, I don’t know what does.
@Mike: Of course this is a hypothetical, but is a non-reader as likely as the well-read Obama to go to bat for the IMLS? And how about the anti-intellectualism of so many of Trump’s followers? Or the tone The Donald would set once in the White House? Let’s stick to the main topic at hand – how rural and small-town libraries might suffer under Trump, at least in terms of federal assistance.
So. I guess the library closings in Oregon are because of the anti-intellectualism of so many of Clinton’s followers
@Bob: Wow, I’ll leave it to others to decode that one.
So … you think Obama has a lot to do with Mississippi, do ya?
@BDR: One reason for the problems in MS was a drop in federal assistance. I suspect it was hardly the major part of the local/regional budget, but could have made a difference if things were already stretched tight.
David. I’m not an American. I cannot vote in the US election. I am, however, finding your continual harping on Trump irritating. It is your blog and of course you can say what you like. But it seems to me that even in the US you are likely alienating somewhere broadly in the vicinity of 50% of your readers. Personally I’ll be happy when the whole thing is over. Though at that stage there is a not insignificant chance that you will be calling Trump Mr President, which you will have to live with. Though he is not your typical candidate, I sincerely doubt that his election will be the end of either the US or Western Civilisation as we know it. It seems to me that, as others have said, Trump is a product of a backlash against political correctness and the establishment common to much of the Western World. Attacks on him, particularly the more hysterical and irrational ones, seem not only to be doing him no harm but to in fact be helping his cause.
I politely request that you refrain from making partisan posts on this topic, and preferably that you don’t post about the US Presidential election at all. There’s not that long to go now, and I suspect that not only will posts like this not advance Hillary’s cause, but may well harm it, and your blog.
Under President Trump, I doubt that the status or funding of libraries will be high on my list of concerns. The fans will be running double time and I’ll be learning to duck.
I’d be more interested in the library systems of foreign countries that have librial immigration policies for middle aged computer programmers.
@Darryl: Many thanks for your feedback.
Let me explain as a patriotic U.S. citizen. The American public library system luckily is not politicized, but it is still threat to authoritarians like Trump, who fear well-informed voters.
Trump is an existential threat to American life as we know it. Even conservative newspapers that always supported Republican candidates in the past are editorializing against against Trump as unqualified by temperament and plenty else. This is unprecedented. He won’t even reveal his tax returns (although the New York Times did give us a head start).
If we lose readers, we’ll miss ’em, but so be it.
Our warnings against Trump will go on. TeleRead unabashedly is pro-library. With Trump a threat to them along with plenty else that makes America already great, how can we not speak out in a public library context?
@Greg M: Thanks for helping me educate Darryl. I’m confident that if he were a U.S. citizen, he’d better understand the gravity of the situation. Please keep speaking out as as a citizen, not just as computer programmer, and encourage other techies to care and vote.
I live in the greater Seattle area and it isn’t Trumpland here, but I’ll still speak out against him.
Newspapers like the Washington Times and other right focused media tend to play his acts down or tump them up. Those readers may not look elsewhere for different views like the Washington Post.
If an ebook blog can play a small part in dissuading people to vote for him, all the better.
@Greg: Thanks. Yes, TeleRead reaches many people whose local newspapers may not give them the full story.
If Americans aren’t sufficiently vigilant—not immediately but in time—we could end up like Zimbabwe where the dictator has cracked down on social media.
No one know more than Donald J. Trump (he of the early-morning tweets!) about the power of social media. You can bet that it may well be on his target list in time.
TeleRead will continue to cover ebook tech news. But we won’t neglect the library-related dangers and others from Trump and those of his ilk.
Just so people know, I took a tough stand against encryption limits that the Clinton administration proposed, and I understand one of the book chains banned my citizens guide to electronic activism because of my comments on civil liberties threats from D.C. The publisher then killed the book.
I still worry about what Hillary might do. But she has many positive traits and is angelic compared to Trump. If you love the First Amendment and this still-great country of ours, do everything you can to prevent Trump from sullying the Oval Office.
Remember, this is the guy who has vowed to torment Jeff Bezos with anti-trust litigation (a scary prospect, given that some very real anti-trust questions do exist about Amazon) and make it easier to sue journalists and others for libel.
Thanks for your response and your indication of your future intention. I’m afraid I don’t agree with you and sadly remain “uneducated”. I will probably skip your blog until the result is decided.
@Darryl: OK, if you don’t believe Greg and me about Trump, enjoy your vacation from TeleRead. Meanwhile I’m confident other people will start reading us partly because we’re telling how disastrous Trump would be for books and libraries.
I generally just read this blog and do not make comments But this discussion about Trump is so serious that I cannot hold back. Firstly let me say that I am a strong supporter of libraries. I contribute annually to the NYPL and I feel a great deal of what I learned in my youth was thanks to the local public library in the town in upstate NY(pop 25000 at that time 60 years ago) where I grew up. Libraries are a bastion of freedom and a linchpin of democracy. An informed public is the key to a democratic society. An informed electorate is essential for the functioning of our government. Does our democratic system function perfectly? Of course not, nothing ever works perfectly. Donald Trump I believe poses an existential threat to our society. It is easy for me to me to see the election of Donald Trump of leading to the demise of public libraries. This is a man who brags that he doesn’t read and has the attention span of a newt.
Although I may be invoking Godwin’s law here and thus leading to an end of this thread I would suggest that those who see Trump in a positive light read the review of Volker Ullrich’s new biography of Hitler(q.v. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/28/books/hitler-ascent-volker-ullrich.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fbooks-of-the-times). A simple exercise- substitute the word Trump in this review every time the word Hitler appears. The parallels are frightening. A last comment re: books and libraries remember the book burnings in Germany on May 10th, 1933.
Enough said and I apologize for the rant
@Elihu: Please—more “rants.”
> “This is a man who brags that he doesn’t read and has the attention span of a newt.”
And if you write your own review of the new Hitler bio in a book and library context, I’ll appreciatively publish it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the way, the bio is available as a Kindle edition, I’m just sorry about the price, $18. What better argument for sensible ebook pricing and for funding digital public libraries adequately so people can more easily learn from the past?
As for the Godwin’s law, it’s unfortunately out of date thanks to Trump. Violate it again and again if you want, as long as the comparison is apt. In fact, Mike Godwin himself wrote recently in The Washington Post:
“First, let me get this Donald Trump issue out of the way: If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler or Nazis when you talk about Trump. Or any other politician.”
What an idiotic article. If anything, I have a better understanding of why Trump would want to defund the library program (not that I totally agree.) So the budget proposal was just put out this month, yet this library has been misusing (or at least not reporting its use of) funds for YEARS? Ok.
The Obama administration raised funding for libraries, yet this county itself (says the article) has continued to cut funding FOR ITS OWN LIBRARY.
If you are going to blame Mr. Trump for the failure of the library to invest in any way in the betterment of its own community, I’d suggest leaving out the damning facts that you presented above and just spin straight propaganda. Because from what I see, the county has no one but themselves to blame for their apathy toward education.
@Brandy: So kids should suffer just because local officials mess up? IMLS is there to provide small grants for localities that do care.
As for what to do about this system in particular, I would fervently agree that federal money is no substitute for good cost control (assuming that is indeed the issue).
So I say throw out the bad guys, then try to rebuild the system with at least some limited help from IMLS in areas such as family literacy and e-books.
But don’t give up on public libraries entirely or even partly, especially for high-poverty counties most in need of them.