Reposted from Democrats Ramshield by Democrats Ramshield
(Written by American expat living in the European Union)
(This diary is written by an American expat living in the European Union who is a male business librarian who holds a graduate library degree (MLS) and a Master's degree in business administration in marketing).
As an American librarian I am glad to be living in the European Union where library funding isn't under attack to the extent that it is back home in the United States, because readership, literacy and an open based knowledge system that is publicly funded is still valued, the same way it was in the America I grew up in. Where what you knew was considered as valuable as what you own, and therefore the library was always regarded as a valuable public good. In the 2014 America however that seems to have changed, library budgets have become low hanging fruit for conservative local and state politicians.Louisiana is the worse case in point where Gov. Bobby Jindal has eliminated state library funding all together. Not only does it beg the question will your state be next but it asks the question what will you do when they come for your library and your kid's summer reading program? Do you really know how many books it's really going to take to make that special child or grandchild in your life a lifelong reader. Do you think you have anywhere near those numbers of books in your private collection? Do we understand that libraries traditionally in America have always promoted literacy. Do we also understand that America's prison population traditionally has been functionally illiterate, wherein many prison inmates cannot read and write above the 6th to 7th grade reading level. Do we understand what de-funding institutions that support literacy in America does?
According to a study conducted in late April (2013) by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can't read. That's 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can't read.
According to the Department of Justice, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." The stats back up this claim: 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level, according to BeginToRead.com.
What is the public library? Who does it benefit and who owns it?
The answer is the public library is a repository of everyone that has ever thought and everyone who has ever written. It is part of our collective memory of who we are and how we got here. If we know more than those who went before us, then it's only because we're standing on the shoulders of those who went before us. The library is an institution, which as a public good revolves around access instead of ownership, it's value comes not from what you own but rather from what you know. It is therefore a completely socialized good, which must be seen therefore as a public good, wherein every person be it a homeless citizen or the mayor, they all have access to the same egalitarian level and scope of services. It is not just America's last best truly socialized good which is publicly owned that they're trying to take away from you. It is your very intellectual freedom that is at stake and that they through economic censorship want to remove from you. Whereupon it should be noted that the American Library Association has a wonderful freedom to read statement, which is believed comes directly from your first amendment right of free speech, which has been defended in wars, where brave American men and women have given their lives, so that we can exercise free speech and intellectual freedom. Will you now simply stand by and let that freedom be taken from you by censors, in what may become the first generation to lose intellectual freedom in America. Therefore it is strongly defended by librarians for not to do so, would be to give way to censorship. As librarians, we are trained to fight censorship in all of its guises because we understand very clearly that working families cannot begin to have access, for example to all of the books needed to turn that special child in your life into a life long reader. We know how important this is for working families, because a child who is not a lifelong reader, simply put is lost and will have very poor chances in the American knowledge based society. In a clear case where drug use, teen pregnancy and juvenile crime statistics are all closely tied with poor literacy rates. Whereas high literacy rates are closely associated with academic success, which breeds monetary success in professional life, as well as social networking. Reading is literally a life changer for any child, that is even associated with better health and a longer lifespan.
Here is how censorship works. It's quite insidious, because the censor will come along to tell you that they have your best interests at heart and are not trying to hurt you but protect you from bad authors on the internet, on blog sites, in books, magazines, journals and other types of serial publications. In history there were book burnings. Not just in Nazi Germany, but right in the good old USA by people associated historically with what has been called the far Christian right. Books deemed to be too radical. Authors believed to be too dangerous to exercise their intellectual freedom. They too must be censored! Of course there are electronic de facto book burnings and blog burnings, but more often than not the GOP and it's supporter trolls are imposing a form of economic censorship through the de-funding of libraries. This in America has become a national epidemic.
The New York Public Library Saved His Life by Beth Hays
Munoz, a junior-high dropout and recovering addict, had never set foot in a Library until two years ago.
Now, Tompkins Square Library is his favorite spot in the city — the place that gave him the strength to turn his life around. “The Library has saved my life. Without it, I would still be out there on the street,” says Munoz, who has been learning to read and write at free adult-literacy center at Tompkins Square Library. “The Library has given me hope and confidence,” added Munoz, who is now inspired to go on to earn his high school diploma. “The Library is the most important place for me in the whole city.”
Miami Herald - Public libraries save lives
Public libraries saved my life and made me who I am. The first one was a shabby little branch of the Miami Public Library, on Northwest Seventh Street, not too far from the Orange Bowl site. It was 1963, and those who lived in that neighborhood were poor. That library no longer exists, but I remember every detail of its interior, especially its shelves and treasure trove of books. It was a few blocks from the group home for juvenile delinquents where I'd been dumped by social workers, and it offered me refuge from constant abuse by my house parents and from the pressure to join a gang.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/...
Are you aware that teen pregnancy rises with illiteracy
wherein a recent study has shown that teen girls with low reading skills are twice as likely to get pregnant during their teen years. So ask yourself when we allow organizations like the library who support literacy for young people to be defunded, what is the real cost of that to American society?
Illiteracy is a common driver historically in poverty, that is say people who are functionally illiterate are at a real disadvantage colloquially put in the modern American esoteric knowledge economy, as are their children. We should also note that in America this means there has always been a racial component in poverty, so that people of color have been especially hard hit. So it is that people traditionally with low literacy rates have populated America's prison systems in the American slave wage economy, where their work in prisons will be paid for as little as 10 cents an hour in the modern American for profit prison industrial complex. This has its roots in chattel slavery dating back to the earliest times in colonial America.
The mass incarceration rates clearly show that in America per 100,000 incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world, wherein it becomes clear that nearly
"63% of all inmates are functionally illiterate according to the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Literacy" (2013).
We've all heard the heartwarming tales of how the Ferguson public library after being underfunded for years as a public good recently received $350,000 in donations
from the public. So it's clear that even if the city of Ferguson municipal government doesn't see the Ferguson public library which had only one paid staff member as a public good, this is an analysis that the public in America does not share.
The very purpose of censorship historically has always been by a few organized malcontents to impose their will on others. Most particularly on young people and children so as to grow bigotry, racism, homophobia, sexism and every contorted description of hatred. If people cannot be allowed to see both sides of the coin on every issue, what will happen is these people will develop a strange myopic view point that is almost entirely one sided, given their information access restrictions as determined by their economic class. If an author is too expensive to read, then this author will be unread. Therefore it becomes easy for authors to become the victims of censorship, because their works will simply be unavailable in a type of strangulation of intellectual freedom. As an outgrowth of this the very freedom of speech becomes at risk, where dangerous ideas and subversive authors disappear from view. The poverty of intellectual freedom which is left behind has a multiplier effect, when science is replaced by religiosity in the classroom in a position where there is no library to turn to, then these students become a captured audience for creationism supplanting science, along with revisionist history and an intolerant morality, wherein people who don't think like us, people who don't speak the way we speak, people who don't look the way we look and people who don't pray the way we pray and people who don't love the way we love are singled out in witch hunts and targeted for different treatment. This has been the whole history of the world and as it is said if we do not want to repeat history, we must learn from it. But how can we learn when open learning institutions are being de-funded in a type of open book burning by de-funding libraries, one library at a time and one state at a time. If you don't believe in the danger of this domino effect, please look at the development in recent years in states like Louisiana.
Libraries brace for funding loss
Libraries like the Missouri River Regional Library could lose tens of thousands in state funding if recent cuts are sustained.
Karen Hayden, the director of the Little Dixie Regional Library, told KRCG 13 Wednesday she canceled standing orders for some new audio books and CDs after the funding was withheld earlier this summer. She said her library system could lose about $50,000 if the cuts are maintained.
Now some people think mistakenly that because we have the Internet we no longer need libraries, because we have more information than we can ever use. This is precisely why we need libraries, because we have more information than we can ever use. You see in librarianship there is something called pertinence, where you want information that is pertinent and retrieval where information that is found may be considered to be retrieved, so you want your information retrieval to be low and you want your pertinence of that information to be high. What the Internet offers is high retrieval with low pertinence, which is just the opposite of what you want. Anyone who has ever tried to find anything in Google will know that because the information matrices as they are constructed in Google are lacking. By contrast the National Library of Medicine classification scheme was developed over a period of 50 years for example so its data matrices and information nodes are far better organized. To get access to that you need to go to a library. Even if you think you have great information you should go to the library, because chances are you will find out you think you have great information because you don't know what you are missing. So libraries in the age of the Internet are more relevant than ever, because libraries organize information far better than anyone has historically through in depth cataloging rules through AACR2 for example.
But it doesn't have to be that way as members of the public we can change that. All we have to do is to care, care enough to get involved, care enough to defend the free speech that is put out by the library. Care enough to defend progressive authors who add value to peoples' lives, who open up the minds of young readers and who are intent in supporting intellectual freedom through the right to read for one and all, both today, tomorrow and forever.
Let's please remember that libraries do change lives through literacy, innovation, and community engagement. To that end, let me please leave you with a link from the President of the American Librarian Assoication Barbara K. Stripling. She tells us that individuals and communities have a right to libraries.
Individuals and communities have a right to libraries: As a child, I dreamed of changing the world. And then I encountered Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I realized that dreams become reality only when we take action. So I embarked on a lifelong path to “being” the change through librarianship.
Here's a link to another diary I wrote that deserves your attention. Thank you for your support.