in the gnotfote*, money for bombs, none for books

The poverty-stricken city of Camden, New Jersey, will soon earn the distinction of being the first US city to close all its libraries.

The US military budget for 2010 is $1.03 trillion.
Camden is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free.

At an emotional but sparsely attended meeting of the library board Thursday, its president, Martin McKernan, said the city's three libraries cannot stay open past Dec. 31 because of severe budget cuts by Mayor Dana L. Redd.

"It's extraordinary, it's appalling," McKernan said.

All materials in the libraries would be donated, auctioned, stored, or destroyed. That includes 187,000 books, historical documents, artifacts, and electronic equipment. Keeping materials in the shuttered buildings is a fire hazard, officials said, and would make them vulnerable to vandalism and vermin.

"They don't want to see our children grasp a future, but go down the toilet," said Jean Kehner, who described herself as a Camden resident for 76 years.

Redd is facing a $28 million projected deficit stemming from reductions in state aid and a long-standing lack of taxable property. She is planning deep cuts in all departments, and she told McKernan last month that she would slash funding to the 105-year-old library system by about two-thirds.

Because not even one of the three libraries could stay open in 2011 on such limited support, all 21 employees would be laid off, McKernan said.

The public library is the only access point for free internet use. Increasing numbers of services are only available online, including job applications for places like McDonald's and Walmart.

* If you're new around here, GNOTFOTE = Greatest Nation on the Face of the Earth, the US's nickname for itself.


L-girl said...

A link most definitely on-topic: Glenn Greenwald: What collapsing empire looks like. Thanks to AtBB and Redsock.

redsock said...

What collapsing empire looks like

Wow. Our move may be better described as leaving a sinking ship. Or checking out of a hotel that is engulfed in flames.

Nitangae said...

In downtown Philadelphia there is a wonderful building with the wonderful name "free library." I don't know anythign else about it, except that. I am sure other people on this list do. There was a nice crowd of young people (all of them looked local, none of htem looked wealthy, and all were very friendly) outside.

I suppose the people of Camden will have to make there way to Philadelphia just to apply for a job or pay their bills, or read a book, or join in story hour with their children. This is very sad.

Mike said...

I wonder how long until we see that up here, but I'm sure the invisible hand of the market is taking corrective action even as we speak... any day now... it'll be just fine... just wait. Why do I hear crickets chirping?

L-girl said...

I can't see many low-income people in Camden traveling to Philadelphia just to use a facility from which they can't even take out a book. They would have to be highly motivated and have some spare cash for travel.

And I don't think we will see that here any time soon. Even in the US, it's a desperate measure in a completely desitute and desolate city.

I don't think Canada has the equivalent of cities like Camden. There are impoverished neighbourhoods within cities, but nothing like complete cities that have been burned out and abandoned like that.

L-girl said...

Free Library in Philadelphia - rings a bell but I can't remember what it is. I will investigate, or someone here will answer first.

James said...

There was another story recently about a town tearing up its paved roads and going back to gravel because it costs too much to maintain real roads.

A local bar owner was quoted as saying that this change will kill his business. But one of his patrons said, "I'd rather my daughter drive on gravel roads than pay taxes!"

I wonder if he'll be as happy when his favourite drinking hole disappears.