Closing libraries is a waste
By Chad Abshire
Daily Times editor
We think it goes without saying — yet here we are saying it — that closing the county’s branch libraries is a shortsighted waste of money, resources and will ultimately limit the capabilities of residents across Carbon County.
It’s not a done deal, but a reduction in the Carbon County Library System’s budget by nearly 60 percent raises some questions: Who else is getting cut? Who is — clearly someone isn’t going to feel the ax — not getting cut that much? Why the library and why to this degree?
Those are just a handful of questions we have and answers just aren’t available until the Carbon County Commissioners release their tentative budget in early July.
Sure, we get it. Libraries are not considered essential services by our county officials — FEMA considers them as such — but not Carbon County.
We’re convinced that if these libraries close, they’ll never open again. It will simply take too much to do so. Consider that the county has put money into these buildings over the years and will now shutter them if the library’s budget stands. Consider that the county risks losing its collections in every branch library if the budget stands.
And it won’t be the Commissioners who close the libraries. They have no power to do so. That falls squarely onto the Library Board. Though perhaps some responsibility is theirs in asking for such deep cuts.
It’s wasteful no matter how you look at it. And unless coal booms again — and it probably won’t for at least another three years if the feds have anything to say about it — and until Wyoming diversifies its economy, there’s no way Carbon County will enjoy its libraries being open again once they’re closed.
There simply has to be a better way to shore up the county’s budget hits rather than slashing branch libraries into non-existence. They’re more than just books — they’re films, games, meeting places, Internet access points and things for kids to do.
No libraries means no story times. It means no programs like “marshmallow engineering” at Encampment’s branch. It means no Internet access for Norma Coranado’s mother, who posted to our Facebook saying that while she didn’t live in the community, mom did. And mom doesn’t have a computer and needs that access.
“Outrageous! I absolutely choose a branch library over a main library every time and every place I have lived because of the love and care I got growing up and going to the Elk Mountain Branch Library,” Jenni Palm wrote on our Facebook page.
This really seems like an “omigod” sort of scenario the county has created for itself. As if our officials weren’t aware of just how bad it was. But that doesn’t really hold water considering the library has submitted 33 budgets in the past few months.
That’s a lot of budgets. And it certainly shows that Bobbie Morgan, who was hired just a few months ago into this mess, is trying her best to keep the branches open.
We encourage everyone to let their elected officials know that asking this much of a cut is unacceptable. It’s not enough to complain on Facebook. It’s not enough to give your words at the dinner table. You have got to show up at these meetings or at the very least write to your elected officials.
Everyone’s going to feel the pinch in these economic times, but the library doesn’t deserve to get pinched and twisted and have its books kicked off the shelves.