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December 27, 2004 12:05 PM   Subscribe

The city of Salinas, CA has decided to address budget concerns by cutting a number of services*. Most surprising, though, is the decision to raise ~$7Mil. (or 2, depending on the PDF) by closing all of the libraries* (hey, at least they're not burning novels) in a town whose population is mostly Hispanic.
Reminds me of that bumper sticker: "Welcome to America: Learn English."
Which begs the question; Where?

*pdf; 5% fewer calories than leading brands.
posted by odinsdream (57 comments total)

 
...via USA Today; dead-tree version, and wbai.org online.
posted by odinsdream at 12:07 PM on December 27, 2004


Books are dead tree technology, man. Get with it.
posted by Slagman at 12:48 PM on December 27, 2004


Speaking as a former librarian, a) this sucks, but b) if it comes down to a choice between firefighters and libraries, close the libraries.

But it sucks.

Hey, the Governator learned English (kind of)--apparently, he must think that all the other immigrants should become rent boys, then personal trainers, then stuntmen, then actors, just like he did. Sweet!
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:52 PM on December 27, 2004


From the pdf it seems straight forward, they're eliminating
over 70 people saving over $7 million. 33 of those people are from the library services, which accounts for $2 of the $7 million.

Even with those cuts, they are still over $2 million in the hole.

I think its crappy that they are in this situation, but what can they do? Not pay the employees when the funds run out? There's just not a lot of options ... Raising taxes wouldn't help until later years. Maybe cut some other critical service? They eliminated 10 police jobs, that's a sure sign that there's a serious budgetary problem facing them.

on preview ... what Sidhedevil said ...
posted by forforf at 12:53 PM on December 27, 2004


Is this common for libraries to be run by cities? Here in South Carolina, public libraries are part of a county library system and as far as i know aren't really funded by cities. Are there county libraries or other libraries in that area?
posted by petri at 1:00 PM on December 27, 2004


There are a lot of reasons not to close libraries, but because they help people learn English wouldn't be high on the list I don't think. TV, conversation, comic books, the internavel, newspapers, cheap novels from the 10 cent bin have to be more important.

But any community that won't tax themselves enough to maintain their libraries deserves scorn.
posted by Rumple at 1:03 PM on December 27, 2004


Vermont is one of the nine states where libraries are entirely funded by municipal monies, either town or city. City libraries in the US run the gamut of being run by the city, the county, or a combination of the two. That's why in a place like Seattle you get the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System [Seattle is in King County] with two completely different service areas and funding sources. From what I can tell, Salinas got huge fast and the influx was mainly people who couldn't necessarily pony up more tax dollars for services, and yet those people needed services. It's a huge mess. My pal Mike Mcgrorty talks a little bit about the ramifications of the demographics of this area in his essay about the Salinas closure. It's a damned shame.
posted by jessamyn at 1:23 PM on December 27, 2004


Okay, so my comment about learning english was a bit on the wishful side, but can anyone deny the huge advantage a library is for someone unfamiliar with the country versus someone stuck in a low-income town without one?

At the very least, it's a safe place to go for studying, doing homework, or working on a public computer to access the internet if you didn't have such a priviledge in your own home, which I suspect is the case for a sizeable portion of Salinas.
posted by odinsdream at 1:43 PM on December 27, 2004


Salinas is in Monterey County, which has its own library system. The County library's "service area does not include the city limits of the cities of Carmel, Monterey, Pacific Grove and Salinas; all of which operate their own municipal libraries."

If/when the City of Salinas discontinues their own library, that might or might not mean that it's citizens are eligible to use the County library system (to check out books, that is). I'd guess that Salinas would first have to sign an agreement with the County library to that effect, and probably pay something to the County library system. [County residents outside of incorporated cities no doubt pay taxed (not necessarily separately or so identified) for the County library.]
posted by WestCoaster at 1:51 PM on December 27, 2004


Good riddance to those filthy copyright pirates!
posted by PigAlien at 1:53 PM on December 27, 2004


This is sad.
And worse this may begin to happen all over. The simple fact is politicians run on a no tax platform and then - when asked - voters vote down tax increases even when hospitals, schools and libraries close, services fall away and deficits grow. Worse people begin to believe that taxes should only be for emergencies and police protection.

We expect philanthropers and millionaires to come and save the day but do we want someone like WalMart to come and run the Library?
posted by Rashomon at 1:54 PM on December 27, 2004


From Jessamyn's link;

The city attempted a remedy through ballot measures presented to the voters early this month, but neither measure received the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

I'm public library staff. I've worked on milage campaigns to get stable funding for libraries. And I work for 50% of what someone with my skills gets paid in the private sector.

This distresses me. I want lots of libraries, everywhere, with all kinds of cool things to share. I want people to know that for less the the price of a hardcover book in taxes, they can have all this cool stuff (at least they can in Michigan). When it comes to bang for your buck, public libraries beat everything except for winning the lottery.

On the other hand, I'm very, very sick of people who don't want to pay anything in taxes, but who wish to have city services. CA decided to have a screwball tax system that makes it very difficult to pass funding. So, I applaud the tactic of closing the libraries so that voters can see that if you don't pay, you don't get services.

But it tears my heart out, none the less. Especially since the people who will be most effected by this probably aren't the same folks who voted in CA's tax system.
posted by QIbHom at 2:05 PM on December 27, 2004


QIbHom - the people who will be most effected by this
I assume you mean affected?

Nothing personal, just nice to get revenge after years of nagging by English teachers and librarians. Honestly, not meant personally.

On a serious note, jessamyn's article explains a lot of it. It sounds more like the city experienced a sudden 50% increase in population that was largely in need of public services and no revenue model could sustain it. If none of the new 50% are paying signficant taxes then it's unlikely the original revenue base could support expanded public services at the old level. It sucks, but it's a major problem out here in CA with very localized revenue. If there's a sudden migrant influx the need for public services goes way up and those who can afford to pay high taxes just move across the border to the next town (in this case Carmel).
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:33 PM on December 27, 2004


Exactly PigAlien, because you know... "publishers' exhilaration about new products and markets is offset by fear that a single sale to a library or an individual could result in the endless reproduction of a document over the global Internet, eliminating hopes of further revenue."

Because that there Global Internet is something, ain't it?
posted by AspectRatio at 2:41 PM on December 27, 2004


Yep, long_name_with_devil_inside, you caught me out. And I was an English minor. My thanks.

Localized revenue is a large part of the problem, as it is with the schools. It has many bad effects, and no good ones, unless one is in the market to become a slum landlord.

And why on earth does it take a two thirds majority to levy a tax in Salinas?

Localized revenue is broken. Rather than fixing the core problem, we vote to cut more taxes, privatize or eliminate more services and those with money move to enclosed enclaves.

We don't have migrants to speak of here. We still have this problem. A very few libraries in mostly affluent communities are doing ok. Rural, city and inner ring suburban libraries are cutting hours, closing branches and laying off staff. The book budgets were cut years ago.

That many of the new Salinas residents are of Hispanic origin is irrelevant. That the tax systems in the US are broken is not. That people don't want to pay, but want services is relevant.
posted by QIbHom at 2:43 PM on December 27, 2004


People still travel to special buildings just to read things printed on paper? How quaint.
posted by mstefan at 2:49 PM on December 27, 2004


Hey, the Governator learned English (kind of)--apparently, he must think that all the other immigrants should become rent boys, then personal trainers, then stuntmen, then actors, just like he did.

When was he a rent boy? Or a stunt man?
posted by bingo at 2:51 PM on December 27, 2004


QIbHom - totally agreeing with you. The problem is that government tends to be most efficient locally and tends to most accurately represent people's interests locally. It's a conflict between large-scale funding efficiency (we believe that libraries are a national public good, but happen to be a lower priority than police/fire/etc) and local control over how that resource is implemented.

I mean, I suspect that a lot of people on MeFi would be a little upset if Pres. Bush were appointed Chief Librarian and got to pick all of the books that went into public libraries.

And, FYI, public votes to change funding in CA is a 2/3 majority in most CA jurisdictions that I've voted in (San Francisco and Santa Clara). One could argue that this whole California direct democracy idea isn't working so well since people are pretty short-sighted and pass things like Prop 13 (severely cutting taxes and leading to our current budget crisis)
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:57 PM on December 27, 2004



People still travel to special buildings just to read things printed on paper? How quaint.


How quaint. I mean, why bother when you can find anything you like on the 'net.

Oh. Wait. You can't. That's right.

Not to mention that libraries are about a lot more than books, and have been for, ooooh, decades. (I don't physically go into my library very often, but I'm constantly dialing into their online databases to read journal and magazine articles I'd have to pay $$$ for otherwise.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:32 PM on December 27, 2004


Reminds me of that bumper sticker: "Welcome to America: Learn English."
Which begs the question; Where?


Ideally, someplace that teaches the correct use of the phrase "begs the question."
posted by Ayn Marx at 3:53 PM on December 27, 2004


Ideally, someplace that teaches the correct use of the phrase "begs the question."

I think that battle is lost, sadly. "Begs the question" has effectively become a synonym for "raises the question", and it seems to me that it's pointless trying to fight it (when was the last time you saw it used correctly?).
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:01 PM on December 27, 2004


How quaint. I mean, why bother when you can find anything you like on the 'net. Oh. Wait. You can't. That's right.

Well, that depends on the person. Perhaps you've had trouble looking up your favorite recipies for fried goat tongue online, but I suspect that for most of us, Google is just fine.

Not to mention that libraries are about a lot more than books, and have been for, ooooh, decades. (I don't physically go into my library very often, but I'm constantly dialing into their online databases to read journal and magazine articles I'd have to pay $$$ for otherwise.

Nothing is for free. So, it begs the real question: why should I subsidize your reading habits? Explain to me exactly why it's in my personal best interest that you get your Mad Magazine fix on the public tit? At least with healthcare and public transportation, I can see the greater good. Your literary indulgences? Pay your own damn way.
posted by mstefan at 4:03 PM on December 27, 2004


I work for a major cable company. I talk to people in Salinas about hooking up cable accounts weekly if not daily. And I can tell you without reservation that these are some very. cheap. people.
posted by Parannoyed at 4:23 PM on December 27, 2004


Well, that depends on the person. Perhaps you've had trouble looking up your favorite recipies for fried goat tongue online, but I suspect that for most of us, Google is just fine.

I was fairly clearly talking about the full-text of books that are still in copyright. Which you can't find online (not legally anyway). Not everything is online. Therefore there's nothing quaint about travelling to a building to read something printed on paper.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:23 PM on December 27, 2004



Nothing is for free. So, it begs the real question: why should I subsidize your reading habits? Explain to me exactly why it's in my personal best interest that you get your Mad Magazine fix on the public tit? At least with healthcare and public transportation, I can see the greater good. .


With a well funded public library system, people who want to lift themselves above their current position in life. For example, it's entirely possible to learn how to program by checking out books from the library, which in turn can lead to a better job which that person puts back into the community through taxes and purchases.

Even literature has its purpose. If it weren't for John Fante books at the Los Angeles library, Charles Bukowski would never have been inspired to write, etc.
posted by drezdn at 4:42 PM on December 27, 2004


Infinite Jest wrote:
I was fairly clearly talking about the full-text of books that are still in copyright. Which you can't find online (not legally anyway). Not everything is online. Therefore there's nothing quaint about travelling to a building to read something printed on paper.

And that being the case, my point is instead of suckling at the public tit, go spread the wealth at Amazon.com. Or at least go someplace where they serve coffee. My quaintness assertion stands.

drezdn wrote:
With a well funded public library system, people who want to lift themselves above their current position in life.

The original justification for public schools and libraries was grounded in the idea that an educated populace made for a better democracy. The theory being that an educated people were in a better position to govern themselves. Given the current state of things, I assert that 200 years of evidence shows that the experiment has failed. Time to pack it in and pay as you go.

For example, it's entirely possible to learn how to program by checking out books from the library...

Being someone who has written a few programs here and there, I will say that you are completely full of... a serious misconception about what is involved in programming computers. It's like saying that it's entirely possible for someone to learn brain surgery or genetic engineering by checking out some books from the library. In other words, nonsense.
posted by mstefan at 4:54 PM on December 27, 2004


suckling at the public tit ...

So, I am to gather that, in your analysis, libraries are quaint, or even bad, because the idea of spending public money on books for everyone's education and betterment is socialistic (notwithstanding that public schools existed even before the US was a nation), and that such ideas are quaint, which you initially explained as an aspect of technology, but which now seems to have a connection to a larger ideology, and that ideology is a failure because, well, people are stupid. So, the answer is given: go to the bookstore and spend your money if you want to read, you ingrate and quaint library patron, sucking off the public like that! I guess in this perfect world, 7-11 store clerks will have to come up with something else to say than, "Hey, put down that magazine or pay for it. This isn't the library!" Because, well, libraries won't exist. A perfect world, one without libraries. I can see it.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:05 PM on December 27, 2004


"At least with healthcare and public transportation, I can see the greater good."

The problem is your lack of perception, Mstefan, not the lack of benefit.

Growing up I was government-cheese-eating, welfare-taking white trash, and every day after school I would go to the library to read and study. The additional self-directed education provided to me by the books in the library, combined with the safe haven the library provided while my mother worked and the guidance provided by competent librarians in finding books that spurred my interest, were in no small part responsible for allowing me to escape the poverty in which I was mired as a child, and allowed me to become what I am today, which is a writer and author with a consistent six-figure income; i.e., a net economic gain to my community, rather than a drain upon it.

Anyone who does not see the greater good to having public libraries is a fool. Anyone who characterizes the totality of services a library provides as "a Mad Magazine fix" is about as ignorant as lard. Perhaps you should have gone to the library more often, Mstefan.
posted by jscalzi at 5:49 PM on December 27, 2004


thedevildancedlightly said;

The problem is that government tends to be most efficient locally and tends to most accurately represent people's interests locally.

I agree in theory, but would argue that in reality, we can't afford to ignore regional, state, national and international connections. Major funding inequalities make schools and libraries vary greatly, depending on the wealth of the municipality in question. It boils down to suburban sprawl, poorer towns getting poorer (rural as well as urban) and richer areas getting richer.

What I'd like to see is local control, yes, but funding done by region, not by municipality.

When the library I was working in a few years ago went to our voters for a dedicated milage (so we would have some idea of our funding year to year, could plan responsibly to save our community money, etc.), we had several of the local libertarian militia members come in, and ask to see our budget. We gave them everything except personnel records (those are private, by law).

They spent 3 days going through our finances with a fine toothed comb. At the end, they admitted they'd been looking for examples of government waste. They then congratulated us on doing so much with so little money, and said they hadn't been able to find any examples of poorly spent money. They promised to go back to their group, and recommend voting for the milage, even though they really, as a group, wanted all government agencies to be eliminated.

I applaud them for doing research, and drawing conclusions based on evidence. They set a good example for citizens, everywhere (everywhere that kind of behaviour won't put you in jail, in a grave or in other deep trouble, that is).
posted by QIbHom at 5:54 PM on December 27, 2004



If/when the City of Salinas discontinues their own library, that might or might not mean that it's citizens are eligible to use the County library system (to check out books, that is). I'd guess that Salinas would first have to sign an agreement with the County library to that effect, and probably pay something to the County library system. [County residents outside of incorporated cities no doubt pay taxed (not necessarily separately or so identified) for the County library.]


In the state of California, any public library that receives state funding must permit any resident of the state the ability to check out books and use services funded by state funds. So your worries about people not having any access at all to libraries is unfounded; they will have to travel farther, but at least they are not shut out.
posted by calwatch at 6:02 PM on December 27, 2004



Being someone who has written a few programs here and there, I will say that you are completely full of... a serious misconception about what is involved in programming computers. It's like saying that it's entirely possible for someone to learn brain surgery or genetic engineering by checking out some books from the library. In other words, nonsense.


Being someone who has done programming, and works as a bookseller, I can point to numerous examples of people who've learned how to program from reading books, people who've learned how to get jobs in real estate, how to write better resumes, how to write cover letters, and how to be better nurses from books. But in addition to providing all that information, libraries also give people access to vast hordes of information in one central location, costing from little to nothing.

And personally (granted, ancedotal evidence is worthless, something I've learned from books), I've learned C programming, Flash, and even a really crappy video editing program from books.
posted by drezdn at 6:08 PM on December 27, 2004


Anyone who does not see the greater good to having public libraries is a fool.

I was waiting for someone to post some homily how, if it wasn't for the public library, they'd still be ignorant white trash doing prison time for buggering the local dairy cows. Thank for you meeting my every expectation, and so eloquently, too.

How I long for the days when a snark was just a snark.
posted by mstefan at 6:12 PM on December 27, 2004


Oddly, Mstefan, my fulfulling your expectations doesn't make any of what I said any less true. Libraries are still to the public benefit, and you are still a fool.
posted by jscalzi at 6:17 PM on December 27, 2004


But in addition to providing all that information, libraries also give people access to vast hordes of information in one central location, costing from little to nothing.

That was the one serious point I was making. The cost is not next to nothing. The cost of building the buildings, staffing them with people and filling them up with books is obvious not "nothing". In fact, it's so "not nothing" (love them double negatives) that many communities can't afford to even keep what they have.

Listen up folks. There ain't no such goddamn thing as free. Got it? Everything has a cost associated with it. The air you breathe. The water you drink. The books you read at your local public library. Every. Thing.

So, the question becomes, is what being offered the most efficient expenditure of public funds? Some of you obviously think so, and that's fine. My personal experience with the public library system in California has been less than stellar, but hey, I guess I'll just agree that YMMV.
posted by mstefan at 6:20 PM on December 27, 2004


Libraries are still to the public benefit, and you are still a fool.

Aw, I love you too, sweetie.
posted by mstefan at 6:23 PM on December 27, 2004


And that being the case, my point is instead of suckling at the public tit, go spread the wealth at Amazon.com. Or at least go someplace where they serve coffee. My quaintness assertion stands.

I'd interpreted your 'quaintness' comment to mean that reading words on paper was quaint and out-of-date now we had the internet. If you meant something else, I apologise. I think the previous posters have made the argument that libraries are a public good better than I could, so I'll stop now.

(but btw, my local library has a cafe that serves damn good food, and coffee).
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:26 PM on December 27, 2004


So, the question becomes, is what being offered the most efficient expenditure of public funds? Some of you obviously think so, and that's fine. My personal experience with the public library system in California has been less than stellar, but hey, I guess I'll just agree that YMMV.

Well, originally you complained that libraries and public schools haven't made us any smarter or better at running a democracy, so your only solution is to stop trying at all. I think a better solution is to look at those nations which have succeeded in education (at least better than we have) and learn from them, none of which have closed all their libraries, or not that I am aware.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:27 PM on December 27, 2004


"Everything has a cost associated with it. The air you breathe."

You have to pay someone to breathe, Mstefan? You have to pay a breathing tax? Interesting planet. I must visit sometime.

"Some of you obviously think so, and that's fine."

Funny, that's not what you were saying just a few posts previous, when you wrote "Your literary indulgences? Pay your own damn way."

See, this is the problem with purporting to snark, and yet also claiming to have a serious point: No one takes your serious point seriously, nor your snark snarkily, and you just end up looking like an idiot.

"Aw, I love you too, sweetie."

This is snark? No wonder I didn't recognize it.
posted by jscalzi at 6:30 PM on December 27, 2004


Well, originally you complained that libraries and public schools haven't made us any smarter or better at running a democracy, so your only solution is to stop trying at all.

That was just me being a wise-ass. We obviously can't just ditch the public school system or libraries, but on the serious side, it's also pretty clear that neither are truly meeting the needs of the populace. Both are woefully underfunded, and the money that is being spent is just being thrown down the drain, propping up a fundamentally broken system (of course, that could be said to be true of a wide swath of government services). Except, perhaps for wherever Jest lives. A public library that serves good coffee deserves kudos.
posted by mstefan at 6:38 PM on December 27, 2004


You have to pay someone to breathe, Mstefan? You have to pay a breathing tax? Interesting planet. I must visit sometime.

As a matter of fact, I do pay a tax to be able to breathe (somewhat) clean air. And if you live in California, so do you. It's not called a "breathing tax" of course, but since you're a smart fellow, I'll let you ponder this a bit and figure it out on your own.
posted by mstefan at 6:44 PM on December 27, 2004


Reminds me of that bumper sticker: "Welcome to America: Learn English."
Which begs the question; Where?

"Ideally, someplace that teaches the correct use of the phrase 'begs the question.'"


I absolutely knew there was something wrong with that wording. I literally stared at it for hours after I posted this. How mildly embarrassing. What's the correct usage?

~

"We obviously can't just ditch the public school system or libraries..."

Backpedaling? Any sane reading of your previous comments would lead someone to the conclusion that, yes, we can and very well -should- abandon the public libraries, so that more "efficient" methods of knowledge distribution can take root, preferably ones where patrons "pay their own damn way."

It's very obvious that your point has nothing at all to do with libraries, and everything to do with your distaste for any mismanaged system, but you fail to make this clear in your own words, and readers must instead rely on their common sense and an assumption that you must be somewhat sane.
posted by odinsdream at 6:55 PM on December 27, 2004


...an assumption that you must be somewhat sane.

Well, there's the flaw in your reasoning right there!
posted by mstefan at 6:59 PM on December 27, 2004


"As a matter of fact, I do pay a tax to be able to breathe (somewhat) clean air. And if you live in California, so do you."

Please do try to remember that some 240 million Americans don't happen to live in the Golden State (even if they do wish they did from time to time, especially when craving a Double-Double, animal style). Heck, some of us even live where we draw our water from a well, meaning we don't have to pay anyone for the water we drink, either.

"We obviously can't just ditch the public school system or libraries, but on the serious side, it's also pretty clear that neither are truly meeting the needs of the populace."

In the little town where I live, the local library acts as a community center, with meeting rooms and other public areas; it provides Internet access and homework help; sponsors book reading groups and storytime hours; lays out educational activity sheets for kids; lends out music and DVDs; and it sponsors music performances during the summers. This on top of being the local book repository.

I'd be hard pressed to imagine what else it could do to "truly meet the needs of the populace." Likewise, we can see how much would be taken away if it were shuttered.

The nearest bookstore to where I live is 13 miles away, two towns over. It has a lovely coffee bar. However, it does not act as a community center, provide internet access, sponsor reading groups and story hours, provide educational activity sheets, lend out DVDs and CDs or sponsor music performances (not to mention lend books). And even if it did, I have difficulty seeing how it would be much use to the people in my town, on a daily basis.
posted by jscalzi at 7:04 PM on December 27, 2004


I absolutely knew there was something wrong with that wording. I literally stared at it for hours after I posted this. How mildly embarrassing. What's the correct usage?

Okay, against my better instincts, I'll actually contribute something useful to this conversation. To "beg the question" describes a logical fallacy. Basically it means that you're trying to argue something is true based on your own assertion that it's true. For example, "public libraries are useless because they clearly serve no purpose" is begging the question. I'm arguing that libraries are useless, and what I use to "prove" my point is the assertion that they are useless.
posted by mstefan at 7:15 PM on December 27, 2004


What jscalzi said--if you go into any public library, you see a lot of people there using the library computers because they don't have any at home.

So closing the library will cut off access to print AND online media for a significant number of Salinas residents.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:26 PM on December 27, 2004


Does anyone else recall a story in the last year, (perhaps NPR), that suggested it would be possible that within 50-100 years reading will only be done by scholars and computers would no longer need keyboards since everything would be done with voice recognition? Makes one wonder if libraries in the traditional sense are nearing the end of their usefulness.

I'm with you that I love the feel, the smell and the appearance of a good book but what about future generations? There will always be those that will reminisce about 'the good old days' but doesn't 'progress' march on?
posted by geekyguy at 8:01 PM on December 27, 2004


Print is a medium that has lasted for centuries. No one has to recreate machinery to render it usable. It's democratic in nature - accessible without regard to wealth. Kinda like libraries!
posted by goofyfoot at 8:49 PM on December 27, 2004


Not to mention that libraries change with the times. As I mentioned, my local library lends music and movies as well as books, and offers internet access. Libraries are not so much a communal storehouse of books as a communal store of information, and information access. And there will always be a need for that.
posted by jscalzi at 8:58 PM on December 27, 2004


odinsdream, I'd just like to note that I nearly posted this to the blue myself. Nicely constructed and a very curious situation. I concur that people there are tight.
posted by fenriq at 9:45 PM on December 27, 2004


I grew up in Salinas (or "Silliness" as we often called it). It went from being a crappy little farm town with various ethnicities that cannot seem to mesh effectively, but a reasonable cost of living, to a place that is now exactly the same except it's bigger and has an insane cost of living.

People there are "cheap" (as an earlier poster alluded to) because they are house poor. The housing values and cost of living went up so quickly that people have freaked out and purchased homes there way outside where they should be able to comfortably afford. This leaves them with little wiggle-room for extra taxes for things like libraries, or for other "niceties." The city government is incompetent and has been for some time. They have had a huge influx of these home resales, and should have been able to make something happen with the income from the property taxes on the new, much higher, home values. But alas, they have not been replaced quickly enough.

Next time you're in that area, take a drive down Main Street and look around. I think you'll agree that if you're going to raise taxes for some purpose, it's not going to be for libraries. The roads are all torn up, there is nothing "to do" in town, the gang violence is out of control, and the city is racially polarized. Why would you bother to leave home to go to the library in that environment when you can get all the info you need via the Internet or by ordering a book? Those that are poor and cannot afford Internet access or books, and seek out information at libraries are NOT a significant number of people and have no political influence due to either apathy, lack of citizenship, or both.

I'm surprised this hasn't happened earlier. . .
posted by BrandonAbell at 1:51 AM on December 28, 2004


This is not surprising.

Schwarzenegger made a campaign promise to "hire an outside independent auditor, free of political influence...", only to hire Donna Arduin, a Republican hack, whose previous cuts to Florida's budget led to unprecidented shortfalls in state tax revenues, massive budget cuts for public schools, universities, child welfare, etc... and the second most regressive tax structure in America.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:03 AM on December 28, 2004


By the way, closing all the libraries is a lovely legacy for John Steinbeck's hometown, don't you think?!
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:08 AM on December 28, 2004


Okay, against my better instincts, I'll actually contribute something useful to this conversation. To "beg the question" describes a logical fallacy. Basically it means that you're trying to argue something is true based on your own assertion that it's true. For example, "public libraries are useless because they clearly serve no purpose" is begging the question. I'm arguing that libraries are useless, and what I use to "prove" my point is the assertion that they are useless.

mstefan, many thanks. Really. Sorry everybody. Scratch "begs", insert "raises".
posted by odinsdream at 8:07 AM on December 28, 2004


instead of suckling at the public tit, go spread the wealth at Amazon.com.

That was the one serious point I was making. The cost is not next to nothing. The cost of building the buildings, staffing them with people and filling them up with books is obvious not "nothing". In fact, it's so "not nothing" (love them double negatives) that many communities can't afford to even keep what they have.

This argument will basically not exist without a comparison of the actual cost for the average library user (or average citizen) out of their tax dollars for access to books to what they would have to spend at a book store to get similar access. I would be willing to bet that the aggregation of tax dollars costs orders of magnitude less than similar access through a book store. Also, speaking as a grad student who makes approximately what most of the immigrant population/lower class makes (in a CA town where I'd guess the income level of the poorer classes is the same as salinas, though the income level in general is probably higher), I cannot afford to buy books (luckily I have the UC library system also). And I don't even have a family to support. So in summary, I think you have no room for equivocation - if you don't support public money for libraries, you flat-out don't support things like raising or probably even maintaining literacy rates in lower classes, and your position may not even be logically consistent with even supporting well-educated lower classes.
posted by advil at 11:09 AM on December 28, 2004


Why would you bother to leave home to go to the library in that environment when you can get all the info you need via the Internet or by ordering a book? Those that are poor and cannot afford Internet access or books, and seek out information at libraries are NOT a significant number of people and have no political influence due to either apathy, lack of citizenship, or both.

How do you know? You wouldn't happened to have, uh, gone to the library? Or are you making this up? So all the kids streaming in to the library are figments of the reporters' imagination?
posted by calwatch at 9:34 PM on December 28, 2004


From the pdf it seems straight forward, they're eliminating over 70 people saving over $7 million. 33 of those people are from the library services, which accounts for $2 of the $7 million.

This isn't quite true. The "33 FTE" indicated means that the equivalent of 33 full-time employees are being cut. The actual number of people losing their jobs will be probably closer to 50 or 60 since many library staff are part-time (check out desk workers, shelvers, sorters, etc.).

And while citizens of Salinas will be able to use other libraries in the area (I think the closest would be the store-front one in Marina that's no bigger than a Subway sandwich shop), if they want to use the better libraries (Monterey City, Carmel, Pacific Grove), they'd have to pay some nominal fee to have a card since they live outside the city limit. And they wouldn't get all the services offered to residents of the city either...
posted by n0nnahs at 4:42 AM on December 29, 2004


if they want to use the better libraries (Monterey City, Carmel, Pacific Grove), they'd have to pay some nominal fee to have a card since they live outside the city limit.

Pacific Grove charges no such fee.
posted by calwatch at 9:42 PM on December 29, 2004


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