For Our Connecticut Readers: Cripple the Libraries and You Kill Connecticut’s Spirit

Dear Governor Malloy,
This is about the libraries. It’s shortsighted and reckless for you to be targeting them in your proposed budget cuts. By cutting support to established, well-running programs such as ConnectiCard, the Connecticut Library Consortium and various grant-funding streams, you will directly affect how Connecticut learns, grows and prospers.

Interlibrary loan programs are heavily used by students in need of expensive or hard-to-find textbooks. The grants you are looking to cut support programs that build stronger communities.

In difficult times, when many state services are at risk, libraries need to be strengthened, not challenged. You argue that libraries need to do more of their own fundraising, yet are proposing to cut important incentive funding programs already in place.

You support the growth of the technological industry in Connecticut yet are proposing to cut the libraries’ Computer Access Program, which is key to creating greater computer literacy in the state.

Libraries are our de facto community centers, especially in communities that can not afford to improve their existing meeting areas. Libraries provide a safe haven for those who wish to better themselves.

In the case of cities like New Haven (where I lived for 30 years), you would be willfully reversing immense growth that has been made through rebuilding and raising awareness about that city’s distinctive branch libraries. In the case of small towns like Bethany (where I recently moved with my family), you will be turning a tapped-in satellite system with access to countless books into a limited, restricted collection of a few thousand volumes. Bethany has only recently joined the LION consortium, and has always taken full advantage of the invaluable interlibrary loan system. Now, after exhibiting such pride and initiative in explaining these programs to the townsfolk, they may be thrust back into the dark ages of limited access to critical materials.

Libraries are symbols of an advanced civilization, a robust culture, an informed populace. They are where we meet and learn from each other.

The legislative manner in which you propose to make these cuts shows an utter lack of remorse or empathy for the struggles libraries face. You are proposing repeals of statutes which have worked smoothly for years and which create necessary paths for libraries to interact, build resources and work with the state government. You are proposing to cut programs which allow libraries to save millions through the investment of mere thousands. You are showing a disregard for intricate relationships which have been built bureaucratically and legislatively. To have to rebuild these important, well-running, highly important programs again, or to have libraries suspended in constant anxiety over the state support for these valuable programs—assuming they can even be restarted—will be time-consuming and demoralizing.

Instead of thinking of libraries, as you seem to, as boutiques whose inventories and services can be reduced during hard times, know them for what they are: the foundation of their communities. Weaken the libraries and you directly weaken the cities and state they serve.

Libraries are one of the most public faces of government. They are the best way to show that we are a strong, united Connecticut, concerned with educating and supporting citizens who want to know more and do more. Libraries are centers of civic engagement. Libraries are monuments to the self-motivation, self-education and self-esteem. They help people escape oppression and ignorance. Their importance can not be minimized.

Please reconsider the crippling effects that your proposals will have on Connecticut’s libraries. As governor, you have stressed your interest in better public education, in reducing the achievement and education gaps, and in building a stronger and more prosperous Connecticut. By cutting critical library services, you sure have a funny way of showing it.

Christopher Arnott
Bethany, CT