Rural poverty and librarian-ing for small wages
February 25, 2015 6:49 PM   Subscribe

The Rocky J. Adkins Public Library in Elliott County, Kentucky recently posted a job advertisement for a new director. The wage? US$7.25 per hour -- in other words, minimum wage. This garnered some immediate expressions of dismmay from librarians on social media. For others, it also reminded them of where they grew up.
With that said: should a library director be paid $7.25/hr? No, of course not. But in this part of Kentucky, believe it or not, that is a decent salary. Not because it is objectively an amount of money that someone deserves for doing their job, but only because the area around it has been forgotten. This part of the world has been given up on by the former industries that sustained it, by the clay and the tobacco and the lumber that were the only reasons money ever flowed into the economy of the area in the first place.
The comments are worth reading, including one by the current director of the library about her successes building up the library's collection and community support — and having her request for a raise denied three times. Other commenters defend the view that minimum wage is not acceptable in a profession whose master's degree can cost in excess of US$60,000.

Nearly all libraries in Kentucky — rural or urban — are awaiting court rulings on legal challenges by Tea Party members to their ability to collect tax revenue. Although McLean County won a court victory recently, other cases are still pending.

Concerns about whether librarians are underpaid have been expressed for decades, as are concerns that if "we have created a cultural expectation of altruistic teachers", we've also done the same for librarians — while at the same time public libraries are increasingly providing social services going well beyond traditional role such as lending out books.

The issues of funding rural libraries are not new — nor are associations that advocate for them. However, the fact that the problems of a small library in rural Kentucky can suddenly become very visible on social media may be a game-changer. The discussion has spurred folks to issue challenges to help rural libraries:
Here is my challenge to everyone who shared the $7.25 an hour job, and especially to anyone who looked at the job, rolled their eyes, and dismissed it out of hand with the attitude of “what could be done with such a backwards state”–we’re going to do something. We’re going to put our time, or our money, or both, out there not only to this county but to the state of Kentucky. We’re going to stop dismissing these counties as places that “deserve” to have their libraries closed because of who they vote for, or places that “deserve” to have underpaid staff and limited hours because their revenue sources and tax issues are complex. We’re going to stop shrugging our shoulders as though it is not our responsibility.
or suggest "a sustained movement ... based around a Freedom Summer concept":
What if librarians, library associations, and other library workers organized a similar effort? MLIS students could be our community organizers, large library associations could provide financial and operational support (mailing, communications, logistical support), and librarians from around North America could volunteer their time to help struggling libraries with whatever these libraries needed.
posted by metaquarry (76 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
Metafilter's own.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:57 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


The tea party is going after libraries? Is America not stupid enough yet?
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:00 PM on February 25, 2015 [57 favorites]


You know, I can totally believe that the social revolution this country needs might just end up being spearheaded by librarians. It's a profession full of people who are organized, educated, know how to look things up, and who give a shit about social justice and equity. Libraries and librarians already have a long history of going way beyond the call of duty to provide help, services, and information for the underserved and disenfranchised in their communities, doing everything they possibly can from within the system to make things work for the people they serve.

Maybe one day they will collectively decide that nothing more can be done within the system as it stands, and that it is time to get together and change it. Maybe that day is today.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:01 PM on February 25, 2015 [25 favorites]


This country is so thoroughly fucked.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:07 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, hello there MeFi. I never thought I'd be linked from a post when I joined the blue all those years ago. *sheepish grin*
posted by likorish at 7:20 PM on February 25, 2015 [23 favorites]


I should also add that a few of us linked in the FPP are organizing a fund-raising drive around a specific event that the Adkins library holds every year. Details haven't been worked out yet, but we've communicated with people from the library in question, and with members of the Kentucky State Library Association.

There are a few hurdles to clear, and I'm sure we'll put out a larger call for help/donations as the details get ironed out.
posted by likorish at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Kentucky is (and many other red states are, I've noticed) fucked. My city in California is building an additional library, our police don't murder people, and we have a nearly bottomless aquifer. We stomped the Tea Party push for charter status with a majority conservative electorate. It might not last, but I don't currently prescribe to the "country is fucked" notion as quickly as I used to.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:34 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


metaquarry: "places that “deserve” to have underpaid staff and limited hours because their revenue sources and tax issues are complex."

Is it really all that complex? Or is it that the people who live there don't want to pay taxes.
posted by Mitheral at 7:38 PM on February 25, 2015


To save you a little scrolling, here's the crazy nut at the heart of that Tea Party link:
Why should my neighbors be able to rent non-educational DVDs and video games at a cost to the tax payer when I rent mine at Redbox? Redbox charges a $1.27 per movie including taxes which I think is a steal. Unfortunately the tax payer doesn’t have any say in what falls under the purview of the library because our libraries are run by a Board of Trustees that are appointed rather than elected by the public, which in turn allows them to make decisions about taxation among other things much like the Politboro did in the Soviet Union.
posted by Iridic at 7:40 PM on February 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


Brocktoon: "It might not last, but I don't currently prescribe to the "country is fucked" notion as quickly as I used to."

A thread on another forum I read made this point, and I think it rather salient (I'm paraphrasing the text): What happens if places like Texas and Arizona and Arkansas and the midwest and even northern California turn into a dustbowl? Or the job market collapses because, especially in the case of the midwest and most of Texas, the jobs are low-end hourly-rate jobs or ones that have dependencies on fossil fuel production? If that happens, where will those people go? Possibly places like the New England and Pacific Northwest, both areas known for abundant water, scenic vistas, high-paying jobs, and "rampant liberalism." (That's actually a quote, I remembered it.) Upon arrival, do those newcomers immediately shift to the left and go with the trends already in place and become "good little left-wingers" (that's also a quote) or do they do what they've done in their previous states and resume trying to tear down the instruments of government and society?

I'm not saying that folks who tilt leftward don't try to make their new homes into the places and institutions they want to see. I'm pointing out that the knife does cut both ways.
posted by fireoyster at 7:45 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Proud that my city voted 2-1 by popular referendum to raise property taxes just to fund our libraries a few years ago.
posted by octothorpe at 7:46 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is it really all that complex? Or is it that the people who live there don't want to pay taxes.
A little googling reveals that the library in question is located in a town in which the average annual household income is just over $14,000 a year. I'm sure that those terrible, greedy Tea Party assholes want to do selfish, selfish things like eat.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:48 PM on February 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am less than surprised that the Tea Party is against libraries. Libraries are democratic, tax-supported, and devoted to the principles of free expression and truth. They are everything the Tea Party hates.
posted by emjaybee at 7:49 PM on February 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also, Elliott County the political situation does have its nuances: Not So Solid South: Democratic Party Survives In Rural Elliott County, Kentucky.

No matter how willing the residents may or may not be to tax themselves -- the population is about 7,600; that's not much of a tax base on its own, which is why state funding support is crucial for a lot of rural libraries across the country.
posted by metaquarry at 7:53 PM on February 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


The librarian who currently holds this position left a good comment on the first linked piece.
posted by dialetheia at 7:54 PM on February 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


Why should my neighbors be able to rent non-educational DVDs and video games at a cost to the tax payer when I rent mine at Redbox? Redbox charges a $1.27 per movie including taxes which I think is a steal.
Why are YOU giving Redbox $1.27, idiot? Because you want to redistribute your meager resources to some out-of-state corporation? The CEO of Redbox is laughing at you, fool.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:16 PM on February 25, 2015 [31 favorites]


Aren't librarians just security guards for books?

* ducks *
posted by blue_beetle at 8:20 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


What happens if places like Texas and Arizona and Arkansas and the midwest and even northern California turn into a dustbowl? Or the job market collapses because, especially in the case of the midwest and most of Texas, the jobs are low-end hourly-rate jobs or ones that have dependencies on fossil fuel production? If that happens, where will those people go? Possibly places like the New England and Pacific Northwest, both areas known for abundant water, scenic vistas, high-paying jobs, and "rampant liberalism."

I'm in the northwest, but in the extremely non-liberal part. There's no shortage of land around here so there's plenty of space for new people, but not much water (and a long history of violent contestations over land and water). Over on the liberal side, where there is plenty of water, the cost of living is crazy high, so good luck moving there without a trust fund.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:27 PM on February 25, 2015


I'm supposed to be a bubble-blowing, ukelele-playing early literacy advocate running an LGBT teen center and a maker-space while fostering math and science passion in girls and running anti-racism storytimes.
PAY ME MOAR.
posted by Biblio at 8:28 PM on February 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


My city in California is building an additional library, our police don't murder people, and we have a nearly bottomless aquifer. We stomped the Tea Party push for charter status with a majority conservative electorate. It might not last, but I don't currently prescribe to the "country is fucked" notion as quickly as I used to.

Soooo, in other words, fuck us, you got yours?
posted by entropicamericana at 8:47 PM on February 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


oneswellfoop: Why are YOU giving Redbox $1.27, idiot? Because you want to redistribute your meager resources to some out-of-state corporation? The CEO of Redbox is laughing at you, fool.

Yeah seriously, I do not understand this line of thinking at all. Why not just go to the library and get movies and take advantage of where your taxes are going?

Libraries are so important for underprivileged communities, but a lot of people don't realize that. They don't see that their taxes are going to something that is a utility they can use.

When I was a kid I loved libraries and as an adult I still use them all the time. I haven't had a printer in 5 years so I've been using the library to print my résumés out the entire time. I've gotten jobs because of that and I'm so thankful.
posted by gucci mane at 10:30 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Soooo, in other words, fuck us, you got yours?

More, 'it doesn't have to be this way', I should hope.

Poor white folk in Kentucky don't want to pay taxes if it means it helps the poor black family down the street, so it might be this way for a while, though.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:00 PM on February 25, 2015


"Kentucky is fucked" is probably not a very useful or kind way to talk about a place where actual human people live.
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 PM on February 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


So you guys know that people in fast food and Walmart and all sorts of other shit make minimum wage all day everyday, right? But a 'director' makes minimum wage and you guys are all up in arms???

Sorry, this is not a revolution. This is self-preservation.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:15 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I should also add that a few of us linked in the FPP are organizing a fund-raising drive around a specific event that the Adkins library holds every year. Details haven't been worked out yet, but

Please memail me when it has been worked out.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 2:59 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is America not stupid enough yet?

Not enough for the Tea Party's liking.

...much like the Politburo did in the Soviet Union.

welp
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:23 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Poor white folk in Kentucky don't want to pay taxes if it means it helps the poor black family down the street, so it might be this way for a while, though.


What do you know of Kentucky? Specifically, what do you know of the rural poor in Kentucky? You can't boil this down to racial hate, no matter how you try.
posted by still bill at 4:06 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think that everyone should be making a living wage whether they're a library director or a retail cashier, but it is extraordinarily dispiriting to feel like one's labor is valued so little. I say that as a librarian in Brooklyn who makes much better wages than $7.25 but who is trying to get out of New York lest I have to sign another lease in this building with bedbugs and weird neighbors and often no hot water, where the rent is going up much faster than the meager union-negotiated raise. And everywhere I'm seeing part-time jobs, even part-time director jobs, or full-time jobs at low wages, because the assumption is that librarians have husbands who bring in the real money.

There is no way to pay librarians in poor rural communities what they're worth. I get that. I don't know how we can fix funding models to make that less true -- even if Kentucky were more progressive, it would still be poor. One of the Facebook comments I saw about this is that this is the kind of library that really needs the sort of experienced and passionate director who'll be applying for grants all over the place and doing advocacy work and trying to squeeze every possible penny there is to squeeze -- which, for $7.25, they're probably not going to get. And that's the crux of the issue for me. You need to pay people decent money if you want to get good people. It's been heartbreaking seeing so many ambitious and enthusiastic librarians leave Brooklyn Public Library over the last couple of years, because I think that Brooklyn needs them more than the rich cities that are paying better salaries, but people can't treat the job as a charity forever, especially once they start raising families.

There's a vicious circle where public services get defunded, and the quality of services goes down, and local politicians say "Look how bad these public services are, we shouldn't be funding them." It's a hard thing to be in the middle of.
posted by Jeanne at 4:20 AM on February 26, 2015 [26 favorites]


Some people are chiming in with very little knowledge of Kentucky's demographics and politics. I grew up in the state and worked there at two different stages in my career. My second go-round was as a University professor in the county next to Elliott County. Elliott County is not only one of the poorest counties in Kentucky, it's one of the poorest in the country. If you recall the "Hardest Places to Live" segment that the New York Times ran awhile back, Elliott County ranked as one of the top 100 hardest counties to live in in the United States. There are many places like Elliott in Kentucky and throughout the country where the local tax base could never support all of the public services that it has. In other words, there is no way that the local taxes alone can support the teacher salaries, school funding, libraries, etc. These things are partially funded by state and federal taxes and grants.

For those who are implying that local voters won't support progressive policies, I've got a surprise for you - Elliott County was one of only four counties in Kentucky to vote for Obama in the 2012 election! It's a Democratic county and in Kentucky politics, the local politics can be surprisingly tilted toward Democrats, particularly in Eastern Kentucky.

Someone commented that white voters in Elliott County don't want to vote for local policies that might help black families. As I've pointed out above Elliott tends to vote Democratic, and even moreso than the rest of the state. According to this census estimate from the US census, Elliott County's population is 3.5% African American. That surprises me--I would have guessed lower. In any case, in local politics in Eastern Kentucky I think most voters think of African Americans as an abstract population that lives in "big" cities like Lexington or Louisville. The population percentage is so low, and the lack of awareness about the lives of African Americans so high (speaking to my experience when I lived in the region), that my speculation is that voters don't use that kind of calculus (can't let "others" have something) when voting on local issues.

If you follow the Tea Party link above, you will see it goes to the Northern Kentucky Tea Party. This group is trying to undo the ability for taxes to be collected at the state level for libraries. I doubt the Tea Party has much momentum or presence in Elliott County. Northern Kentucky is basically Cincinnati suburbs and is about a two hour drive from Elliott County. Northern Kentucky is where the Tea Party is strongest in the state, because that is where you have the most conservative religious outlook combined with moderate wealth. Cincinnati also has a long history of racial segregation and tension.

The narrative that the US is f$#%ed, that "red" states are f#$%ed is a nice simplistic way for liberals in politically-liberal-controlled areas to just ignore what happens elsewhere. Conservative policies are not universally agreed-upon in areas controlled by the Republican party. As someone who lives in a very purple state, almost the "purplest" I am living through this. What has happened is that the Republican Party has spent 30 years or more developing strategies to win local and state control. They especially use gerrymandering to neutralize the progressive voters in a given polity. In fact, as we have witnessed in recent national elections, Democratic candidates receive more total votes than Republican candidates, but Republicans are able to gain more offices.
posted by Slothrop at 5:24 AM on February 26, 2015 [59 favorites]


In fact, as we have witnessed in recent national elections, [Party X] candidates receive more total votes than [Party Z] candidates, but [Party Z] are able to gain more offices.

....sooooo, you're basically saying America is fucked?
posted by aramaic at 6:27 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


We watched three episodes of Justified last night so I've got southern accents bouncing around my head. Stumbling into this thread I keep looking around for Boyd and Ava. I've spent a fair part of my life in very rural areas, though far north of Kentucky. While paying a library director minimum wage is sad, it is not a surprise. There's just not a lot of tax dollars to go around.

I suspect that the reason the Tea Party asswipe rents videos from RedBox instead of the library is that libraries never have new releases and outlets like Redbox run nothing but lowest common denominator new releases.
posted by Ber at 6:27 AM on February 26, 2015


In fact, as we have witnessed in recent national elections, [Party X] candidates receive more total votes than [Party Z] candidates, but [Party Z] are able to gain more offices.

....sooooo, you're basically saying America is fucked?


If you are the kind of person who allows setbacks to divert them from their goals and seeks to persuade others to give up also, as a sign of solidarity -- sure, you could interpret Aramaic's useful, detailed, and informed analysis of the situation that way. Perhaps you could lay out for us the value of that perspective, how we might benefit from joining you in your surrender to the inevitable failure of American democracy. Come, show us the way.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:56 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I meant "Slothrop's useful, detailed, and informed analysis of the situation"
geez, I need a ten minute edit window
posted by Herodios at 7:03 AM on February 26, 2015


So you guys know that people in fast food and Walmart and all sorts of other shit make minimum wage all day everyday, right? But a 'director' makes minimum wage and you guys are all up in arms???

Sorry, this is not a revolution. This is self-preservation.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:15 AM on February 26


There are a number of issues I have with this comment. I don't know that I'll be able to articulate them all and I am sure I will not articulate them all WELL but I'll give it a shot:

1) Many people here, including me, ARE up in arms about employees of Wal*Mart and in the fast food sector making such low amounts. There are many initiatives to raise the minimum wage and improve working conditions and many people on Metafilter support them.

2) Did you miss that an MLIS degree can cost about $60,000? Jobs with high barriers to entry, including financial barriers, need to pay more so people can afford to do them.

3) Paying a "director" minimum wage creates a race to the bottom; if this job is making minimum wage, then no one at the library can possibly be making more than that. Like it or not, there is a hierarchy in basically every organization and the amount people on the top are paid affects how much the people below them are paid. This doesn't mean I think that executives should be receiving the exorbitant compensation they often receive, but if minimum wage is the absolute most you'll pay your most highly compensated employee, that puts everyone in a bad situation.

4) This is true within organizations, but also across organizations within regions and ultimately big chunks of society and affects social mobility. Yes, people at Wal*Mart are compensated poorly, and if they are making the same amount at jobs that require expensive degrees, what options do they have? If no higher paying jobs exist, no one can get paid anything higher than minimum wage.

5) There are other points about what work we value and how we value it but I think I'll make them less well and then you could just attack those as a straw man so I'm going to make a vague reference to them and trust that my other points are made solidly enough.

Bottom line: I find this comment disingenuous. It seems clear that there are good, solid reasons beyond "self-preservation" to want jobs to be compensated at higher than the minimum wage, no matter what those jobs are.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:10 AM on February 26, 2015 [30 favorites]


this is the kind of library that really needs the sort of experienced and passionate director who'll be applying for grants all over the place and doing advocacy work and trying to squeeze every possible penny there is to squeeze -- which, for $7.25, they're probably not going to get.

I just wanted to repeat this, because it's an important point.
posted by twirlip at 7:38 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Aren't librarians just security guards for books?

* ducks *


They distribute and share media; assist the public with research and forms; and above all else, support others making opportunities for themselves.

Kind of like a point guard for progress.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:38 AM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


It really seems like the solution is to just shut the town. Why do towns persist where there is no economic / agricultural self-sustainability? You have the communities living out in the middle of nowhere all over the world, in inhospitable places that have no real economic or agricultural viability and the approach taken usually seems to be to provide some crutch of cash inflows. Which merely sustains the situation. Why is the solution of people moving to a more viable region so unmentionable?

Why is emotional attachment to an area/home so persistent? It seems it would be cheaper for most governments to just offer the residents a relocation package to a more hospitable region than propping them up.
posted by mary8nne at 7:45 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Where would they go? What would they do? It seems like if we just relocated everyone they'd be in the same situation without jobs or skills but also without the support network of friends and family and understanding of local resources that they have now. Where would you put everyone?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:50 AM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Why is the solution of people moving to a more viable region so unmentionable?

Because often they have no money to move? Because they have family there that in the same boat? Because what guarantee are you making that their lives will be better if somehow they scraped up enough money to move? (Your government idea is ridiculous on its face, by the way.)

On preview: what Mrs. P said.
posted by Kitteh at 7:53 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


It seems like if we just relocated everyone they'd be in the same situation without jobs or skills but also without the support network of friends and family and understanding of local resources that they have now. Where would you put everyone?

Are there not prisons? Are there not workhouses?
posted by entropicamericana at 7:58 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Why is the solution of people moving to a more viable region so unmentionable?

Are Americans set enough in their "middle of nowhere" communities for anomie to follow?

This has happened to other groups, and the results have not been pleasant.
posted by mr. digits at 8:00 AM on February 26, 2015


Having moved interstate about three years ago: it's fucking expensive, even if you are a 21-year-old recent college graduate traveling with minimal stuff, and it takes a long, long time to get set up in a new place. When I moved within my own city last month, it wound up costing me something like $1200 to do it--and that was with packing everything myself, renting my own U-Haul, and recruiting friends to do the actual moving on the day of. That was pretty much my entire savings, and before I got a major unexpected windfall last week I was basically crossing my fingers, eating a lot of rice, and hoping very hard that nothing bad happened for the six months it was going to take for me to build up some more savings because I was literally looking at months when I had about $100 of my own money in my bank account after bills, and it was going to take some time to build up any kind of real savings again.

I cannot imagine trying to do that on your own, AND move to a new city, AND have no guarantee of an actual job, AND have no support network, AND have to also negotiate basic moving-to-a-new-place shit like finding a grocery store and a pharmacist and doctors and library cards and stuff. Especially if your extended family needs you and relies on you at home.
posted by sciatrix at 8:04 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


5) There are other points about what work we value and how we value it but I think I'll make them less well and then you could just attack those as a straw man so I'm going to make a vague reference to them and trust that my other points are made solidly enough.


I am basically seeing comments like these as "yeah, sure minimum wage sucks. but it especially sucks for librarians because they are better than minimum wage workers".
posted by hal_c_on at 8:38 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Where would they go? What would they do?

Well logically there must be places that are more economically and agriculturally viable - otherwise we would not be able to single out these particular places.

And I'm not talking specifically about the USA - you read about communities that persist in other countries in inhospitable regions. Helping these communities sometimes seems like giving drug addicts more heroin and expecting something new to come of it.

Your government idea is ridiculous on its face, by the way
well yes exactly my point - it seems like a logical solution to and yet is "ridiculous".

Having moved interstate about three years ago: it's fucking expensive, even if you are a 21-year-old recent college graduate traveling with minimal stuff, .....something like $1200 to do it

Sounds like you have a lot of stuff then. I have moved countries for less than that.
posted by mary8nne at 8:49 AM on February 26, 2015


I am basically seeing comments like these as "yeah, sure minimum wage sucks. but it especially sucks for librarians because they are better than minimum wage workers".

Do you have any other response to Mrs. Pterodactyl's really good points in the rest of that comment? Because now it seems like you just want to start a fight about this. These two points were particularly salient:

2) Did you miss that an MLIS degree can cost about $60,000? Jobs with high barriers to entry, including financial barriers, need to pay more so people can afford to do them.

3) Paying a "director" minimum wage creates a race to the bottom; if this job is making minimum wage, then no one at the library can possibly be making more than that. Like it or not, there is a hierarchy in basically every organization and the amount people on the top are paid affects how much the people below them are paid. This doesn't mean I think that executives should be receiving the exorbitant compensation they often receive, but if minimum wage is the absolute most you'll pay your most highly compensated employee, that puts everyone in a bad situation.

posted by dialetheia at 8:56 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why is the solution of people moving to a more viable region so unmentionable?
It's not unmentionable, in fact, it gets mentioned every freakin' time. It's not unmentionable - it's untenable. It just doesn't work. Rural Poor move into the city and become Urban Poor, and how are they faring lately? Not to mention moving under duress is fraught with possibilities for mistakes that would be catastrophic for economically challenged people. Also, it's expensive:

Having moved interstate about three years ago: it's fucking expensive, even if you are a 21-year-old recent college graduate traveling with minimal stuff, .....something like $1200 to do it

Sounds like you have a lot of stuff then. I have moved countries for less than that.


Bully for you. Lots of people move for less than that - they have very little 'stuff', some even have families, and we call those people refugees. It's happened in the US of A before: during the dustbowl, whole families packed up what they could and moved, many from Oklahoma. These Okies were not welcomed, and I believe we have pictures of the result.

'Just move!' is not the answer here. Part of the answer is education, and education is hard without a local library.
posted by eclectist at 9:06 AM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sounds like you have a lot of stuff then. I have moved countries for less than that.

Well, a golf clap for once again making yourself look like the Smartest Guy in the Room. Your schtick is gold, every damn time.

When people like you bring up the "why don't these people move already", they conveniently forget about how people are actually human beings and not faceless pawns to be moved around as though they were on a game board. Most likely an increase in taxes would be involved if the government would get involved and then those same folks would suddenly stop supporting the idea because hey, I already pay taxes, why should I pay more of them to be a decent human being.

I legitimately don't know why you continue to engage in bad faith arguments in every thread you poke your head in, but I can hazard a guess.
posted by Kitteh at 9:11 AM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


The problem with "just move" is that a place is not just a latitude and longitude. It's a community of people who are connected, by blood, by shared history, by church and school.

It is no small thing to lose that, especially if you are old, or sick, or have young children who your parents are helping you raise.

To move may mean a better job, maybe. It might also mean you lose your babysitter, all your friends, your church, your children's friends. Starting over is very hard, and the fewer resources you have to begin with, the harder it is. Without a car, or a job waiting, or enough for a new deposit, what do you do? How do you live?

And if you risk it all and move, and fail, and end up on the streets of the new place, what then? You can't go back. You are homeless. You have lost what little you had.
posted by emjaybee at 9:13 AM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


5) There are other points about what work we value and how we value it but I think I'll make them less well and then you could just attack those as a straw man so I'm going to make a vague reference to them and trust that my other points are made solidly enough.

I am basically seeing comments like these as "yeah, sure minimum wage sucks. but it especially sucks for librarians because they are better than minimum wage workers"


Good for you on explicitly not responding to the points I made in full and ONLY addressing the point I explicitly DIDN'T make because you'd turn it into a strawman. That is some quality work.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:17 AM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Sounds like you have a lot of stuff then. I have moved countries for less than that.

I'm impressed! For me, most of what I am counting is actually deposits. I haven't received my deposit from the old place yet, and I might not, in my experience, for a few months yet. (If I do--it's pretty common for landlords to just straight up pocket deposits for all kinds of amazingly daft reasons. Among other things, mine required me to steam clean the carpets at my expense before moving, so that was another $50.)

$400 was straight up security deposit, and $400 was for my dog. If my partner had been able to move with me--they're moving down in a few months with the cat--the full cost for deposits would have actually been $1100, not $800 as it was, because the landlords charge an extra $300 for a second animal. As it is, I'll be paying that out of my windfall in a couple of months. So even if I had literally nothing--if I had moved with just myself, my dog, and no furniture or cleaning supplies or food or kitchen gear at all--it would still have cost me $800 to move. Those deposits are all things I'd paid at my previous place already; if I'd renewed my lease, I wouldn't have had to pay them again.

Are poor people not allowed to own pets? I'm not even all that poor, I'm just young and starting my career up and spending time in grad school. There are lots of people who have stuff way, way worse than me on all kinds of axes, and I'm nowhere near the level of poverty that is horrifyingly common in the Appalachians.
posted by sciatrix at 9:21 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


What I want to know is the budget of the Elliot Co. Sherrif's office.

But then, that's like asking to compare the salaries of the local Spanish/Drama/Music/English Teacher and the local Football Coach.
posted by eclectist at 9:21 AM on February 26, 2015


What I want to know is the budget of the Elliot Co. Sherrif's office.

But then, that's like asking to compare the salaries of the local Spanish/Drama/Music/English Teacher and the local Football Coach.


I dunno, eclestist; I know many very small population centers that 1) have one full-time police chief and two part-time officers and they don't make much, and 2) have football coaches make the same as any other teacher, and often have that coach teaching other classes because the school can't afford to have a dedicated football coach for a high school with less than a 80 graduating students each year. And I say this as a former English teacher and a former rural town resident. Of course, I would have to see Elliot County's books which I can't right now.

As much as we may want to ascribe a lack of perspective and priorities for the reason that things are going to pot, sometimes everyone in the situation is hurting. There are those that are hurting more, but no one in that area is living off the fat of the land. Sometimes, in a small town, everyone is losing, and no one is the local villain.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:35 AM on February 26, 2015


Libraries are so important for underprivileged communities, but a lot of people don't realize that. They don't see that their taxes are going to something that is a utility they can use.

I think part of the problem is that people think of libraries as cultural resources - the place where great movies and great books and classics of literature are stored. And in relatively modern years, libraries have been more and more desperate just to get people in the door, so they have more pop movies and shitty literature prominently displayed, with the hope it'll be a gateway drug. But having 'Scary Movie 2' at the library is still kind of hard to understand.
posted by corb at 9:41 AM on February 26, 2015


Given that it is untenable for people to move to where the money is, it seems the clear solution is to move money to where the people are.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:43 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The problem with "just move" is that a place is not just a latitude and longitude. It's a community of people who are connected, by blood, by shared history, by church and school.


This gets at this issue - does a hyper-organism like a "community" have a claim to "rights"? You could probably move out the individuals - but yes it would destroy the "community". Should we really care though? I don't think its that clear that we should really care about hyper-organisms.

I don't really see what the alternative is and no-one has suggested one above. If a community can't even afford to pay for a library, then who should intervene and what should they do?

Individuals get chronic disease that are untreatable. Suppose that one could diagnose a community with an chronic illness? A slow death or an assisted suicide for a community seems like the only realistic options and which one would be preferable for the individuals?
posted by mary8nne at 9:45 AM on February 26, 2015


Given that it is untenable for people to move to where the money is, it seems the clear solution is to move money to where the people are.

A more equitable collection and distribution of public funds would be sufficient.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:46 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Suppose that one could diagnose a community with an chronic illness? A slow death or an assisted suicide for a community seems like the only realistic options and which one would be preferable for the individuals?

Wait, wait, are you seriously suggesting forcibly displacing people from their homes? Because they're poor?
posted by thegears at 9:46 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sometimes, in a small town, everyone is losing, and no one is the local villain.

You're right - it was a knee-jerk comment, I retract it and apologize.
posted by eclectist at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2015


This gets at this issue - does a hyper-organism like a "community" have a claim to "rights"? You could probably move out the individuals - but yes it would destroy the "community". Should we really care though? I don't think its that clear that we should really care about hyper-organisms.

Given that "communities" are made up of individuals and generally comprise individual support networks, I think we should care. I suspect a poor rural town that is scraping by on its own and relying on intercommunity support to get by is still going to be doing better than individual poor people scattered across a network of large cities.

Out of curiosity, how would you advocate that a poor, rural person with minimal education and no outside resources move to a large, bustling city and take advantage of jobs? The minimum wage is the same across the state--and for states with no state minimum, the country--and urban areas generally have exponentially higher costs of living. If you think that cushy, reasonably paid, insurance-granting jobs for people are just falling from the trees in the cities--boy, have I got a bridge to sell you. And that goes double for entry-level jobs for people who may need to transition across industries (i.e. anyone who used to work in coal and can't now, for example).
posted by sciatrix at 9:55 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


And in relatively modern years, libraries have been more and more desperate just to get people in the door, so they have more pop movies and shitty literature prominently displayed, with the hope it'll be a gateway drug. But having 'Scary Movie 2' at the library is still kind of hard to understand.

I don't know, I'm totally okay with it. It's a type of media; libraries are there to be repositories and purveyors of information of all types, not to be a restrictive environment pure from popular delights like Scary Movie 2 or Twilight. I might roll my eyes internally when seeing Twilight rebound for the third time, but actually, it is a good sign: look how loved and how read it is! Sure, money allocated for one thing means money not allocated for another. But I do not think there are very many public libraries populated entirely with fifteen copies of 50 Shades of Grey and no Their Eyes Were Watching God. It sounds like the last library director there was able to create a vibrant space and a collection that gets used by community members, and that's awesome.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:55 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]



Ch-ch-ch-chaucer!

Rrrrabelais!

Baaaaalzac!
 
posted by Herodios at 10:03 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sometimes, in a small town, everyone is losing

Or, they adapt to their situation, learn to live more modestly, more simply. Which means if you're fortunate to have a small library open five hours a day closed Sunday and Monday which contains a couple tables, a computer or two for those who need it, some popular fictions and some resource materials for your rural town of 7,000, you might not require a professional with an advanced and expensive masters degree to watch over it. You just need a responsible personable adult who can be relied upon to handle the opening and closing, similar to the people who work any public-facing small business. Be nice if they could make a little more than minimum wage, but that's true for a lot of us down at the bottom of economic opportunity.
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:06 AM on February 26, 2015


Rural poor people have also amassed a lot of skills over the generations that make it a little easier to be poor in a rural area. A lot of those skills don't necessarily translate to cities. Knowing how to grow, hunt or forage food, for instance, is probably pretty helpful in rural Kentucky and not helpful at all in Chicago.

People have been leaving poor rural areas for cities since forever. I assume that people who live in those areas are aware of the possibility. If they aren't doing it, there may well be good reasons.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:12 AM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Or, they adapt to their situation, learn to live more modestly, more simply.

Are you seriously implying that the residents of one of the poorest towns in America are not ALREADY living modestly and simply? Come on.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:14 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Are you seriously implying that the residents of one of the poorest towns in America are not ALREADY living modestly and simply?

No, I'm not implying that. Just the opposite actually. Which is why they might have different expectations and needs for their public services like libraries than people who live in urban economies.
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2015


mary8nne: "This gets at this issue - does a hyper-organism like a "community" have a claim to "rights"? You could probably move out the individuals - but yes it would destroy the "community". Should we really care though? I don't think its that clear that we should really care about hyper-organisms. "

Something's getting lost in translation here. The objection isn't about an community as a coherent unit, it's about an individual person's reaction to moving away from their families and the people who helped raise them up -- not just raise them, but raise them up. For people who might not be purely analytical beings, it's difficult to sever those ties.
posted by boo_radley at 10:32 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think part of the problem is that people think of libraries as cultural resources [...] But having 'Scary Movie 2' at the library is still kind of hard to understand.

On the one hand, it's hard for people living in a particular moment to tell what things in that moment are totally worthless shit and what things either grant insight into culture or contain tools that can be effectively repurposed. I've never seen the Scary Movie movies, and I trust people who say that they're awful. But nevertheless, I like that libraries have copies of them for the general public to use. I don't feel nearly as comfortable as you do treating pop culture objects as not being legitimate "cultural resources."

This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as sort of alluded to above, it's hard to cleanly scythe apart the shit from the science, and I don't trust any kneejerk rubric for making that distinction (rubrics like "popular/populist == bad" or "new == crap, give 'em the old stuff"). Secondly, though, participation in culture needs to be democratically accessible for us to continue pretending that we're living in a democracy. If the things that we make are only accessible to people with money, the idea of anything like a cohesive American culture falls apart. The thing is, without access to a broad spectrum of cultural productions, it's hard to become a cultural producer yourself; entering into the ongoing conversation of contemporary culture requires more than just knowing the old stuff, it means knowing the new stuff. People who are excluded from contemporary culture because of who they are and where they come from become excluded from not just cultural consumption, but cultural production too.

We live in a market-dominated culture, and so copies of cultural objects (Scary Movie, Beowulf, the Iliad, whatever) tend to be produced through market means and distributed via market means exclusively to the people capable of paying for them. There are, though, a few really powerful forces for cultural democratization pushing against these market forces. We have the public domain, meant to ensure that older works can be distributed democratically. We have libraries, meant to ensure that a broad selection of newer works can be distributed democratically. And we have piracy, which is becoming increasingly indispensable as a method of cultural access for people from excluded classes growing up in excluded locations, but use of which is limited to people with the means and knowhow to safely and effectively pirate.

Unfortunately, all of these democratic institutions are under continual attack by powerful market players. "Well I mean it's not Homer we're talking about here, these are just Scary Movie 2 distribution centers" plays right into those attacks.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:32 AM on February 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


You Can't Tip a Buick: "Unfortunately, all of these democratic institutions are under continual attack by powerful market players. "Well I mean it's not Homer we're talking about here, these are just Scary Movie 2 distribution centers" plays right into those attacks."

Oh, and then we'll get "These people are uncultured, surely they won't miss the Illiad being taken away from them." Or Sula, or GED prep, or the billion other things that our libraries do.
posted by boo_radley at 10:34 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I serve the needs of my community. Some of my community wants to read award winning fiction. Some of my community wants to watch Bubble Guppies. Some do both at different times. I'm ok with that. My library has room for Where the Wild Things Are and My Little Pony tie-ins. Nobody is paying me to be a snob.
posted by Biblio at 11:34 AM on February 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


Okay, I looked at this page from the opening of this library in 2003. Small pictures, but it appears to be a larger, newer building with a more extensive collection than I imagined when it was described as a rural library (it also appears to be named after the politician who opened it). I was thinking more in terms of the village library near me that is in the same buiding as the volunteer fire department. That library is a part-time lending branch of the larger county system. Unless this library was built beyond the community need (political money seems to be often found for building but not continued operation), it does appear substantial enough that its manager should have some qualifications and be receiving a decent wage.
posted by TimTypeZed at 11:50 AM on February 26, 2015


Kentucky is fuckeding awesome. Yes, there are lots of problems down here and the grinding poverty of the Appalachians is way up the list. But folks are trying. I'm proud to say that my grandfather was a small-time player in the rural electrification of KY way back when, and I'm personally happy to have played a small part in bringing the internet to many of the eastern Kentucky telcos in the early dial-up days. (I worked at an ISP that provisioned the bandwidth for a number of those telcos.)

Librarians are awesome, too. Back in a time when the government's role in the economy was considered a virtue, many saddled up and became pack horse librarians. The program lasted from 1935 to 1943. Down Cut Shin Creek is a short book detailing these common heroes.

Eastern Kentucky is a beautiful region. I'd encourage any of the outdoors-minded folks here to consider vacationing in the Appalachians. Tourism isn't the long-term answer but spending some of your hard-earned dollars will help a little.
posted by CincyBlues at 12:06 PM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]



Folks, a bit of data for your stew.

First, some Info from Wiccapeedia about counties in KY
Despite ranking 37th in size by area, Kentucky has 120 counties. . . . Depending on definitions, either third or fourth among U.S. states [behind Texas (254), Georgia (159) and Virginia (95 counties plus 38 independent cities that deal directly with the state government]

The original motivation for having so many counties [in KY] was to ensure that residents in the days of poor roads and horseback travel could make a round trip from their home to the county seat and back in a single day . . . Later, however, politics began to play a part . . . [until the 1891 Kentucky Constitution placed stricter limits] citizens who disagreed with their county government [could simply create] a new county.
Now, some stats from the state (of KY, by county)
Source: http://kdla.ky.gov/librarians/plssd/Documents/KDLA1213.pdf

Library Director's Salary
Elliot: 5th last  @  $   15,080.00
Last:   Hickman   @  $    4,361.00
First:  Jefferson @  $  165,000.00
Population
Elliot: 10th last @   7,780 
Last:   Robertson @   2,188
First:  Jefferson @ 750,828
Local Government Revenues
Elliot: last(tie) @ $         0.00
Last:   Knox      @ $         0.00
First:  Jefferson @ $14,744,300.00
Total Operating Revenue
Elliot: last      @ $    14,915.00
Last:  --------------------------
First:  Jefferson @ $16,646,284.00
Library Income per capita 
Elliot: 2nd last  @ $         1.92
Last:   Knott     @ $         1.05
First:  Hancock   @ $       112.82
Expenditures
Elliot: 2nd last  @ $    29,000.00
Last:   Hickman   @ $    18,430.00
First:  Owen      @ $16,673,005.00
Expenditures per capita 
Elliot: 4th last  @  $        3.76
Last:  Bal/Car    @  $        3.58
First: Owen       @  $       67.66

posted by Herodios at 1:05 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Libraries aren't pandering to the masses becasue they're desperate to get folks in the door. Folks like libraries and use them, more than ever (per capita, since records have been kept). The debate over whether they should "give 'em what they want" has been going on since at least the late 19th century when it was called "the ficton problem" and some library directors bragged about how many novels they discarded in favor of more improving non-fiction. One annual report referred to fiction as being as addictive (and presumably destructive) as opium.

American public libraries serve a democracy of tastes, and that's as it should be.

I'm grateful to Griffey for his post and to Dolly for getting a start on mobilizing some support.
posted by bfister at 5:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Dear Holy Gibbering Lord, somebody please put together an FPP about Pack Horse Librarians. I have neither the skills nor the time, but boy-oh-boy would I love to read all about it. That is an incredible story. I had no idea.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:35 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


"To move may mean a better job, maybe. It might also mean you lose your babysitter, all your friends, your church, your children's friends. Starting over is very hard, and the fewer resources you have to begin with, the harder it is. Without a car, or a job waiting, or enough for a new deposit, what do you do? How do you live? "

Yeah, this is what I think every time someone on Ask Mefi is advised to dump their entire life, fly by the seat of their pants, and MOVE! I stay in my too-expensive-by-now apartment because it costs even more to move within my town. I don't know how the fuck I'd move away somewhere where I couldn't live on someone's couch for however long it takes to get a job. I don't have any friends living where I'd want to live that can take in another roomie. And it takes years to find a job, and you have to move before you can find a job....I heard a story today about someone I used to know who moved back to her home state to be close to family but still can't find a job and is otherwise miserable, apparently. And I live in a state that's better off than Kentucky. Most people I hear of who move away are now living on someone's couch for awhile until they can afford to live. If that's not an option for you, hah.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:12 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Alright, seeing how the discussion is going - you know what, I do a lot of work with homeless individuals. And recently, where I work, there have been a lot of clients come in whose story goes, "I came from X town where I had family support to move here because I heard there were jobs here." And as a social worker, when I hear this I want to weep big bloody tears, because it is in fact not easier to get shit resolved when you have no support system.

I was able to get a job from 3000 miles away, but I had specialized skills and they were willing to do a phone interview. This is not common! Most people have to show up to interview, and moving without a job is pretty much suicidal.
posted by corb at 10:11 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


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