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 That includes 187,000 books, historical documents, artifacts, and electronic equipment.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.

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