Don't close the book on struggling libraries

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Friday, January 7, 2011; 9:01 PM

Regarding the Jan. 2 Metro story "Hard times spur libraries to shelve services":

The budget is a math problem. Montgomery County libraries serve a fast-growing population with a budget ($29 million) shriveled to less than fiscal 2000 levels. Library funding used to be 1 percent of the county budget; now it is 0.6 percent.

Razing libraries would not solve the budget crunch. We must eliminate duplication of effort in school executive offices and in other county departments whose budgets have not been already cut by 25 percent.

Things are so bad that the Friends of the Library and its chapters are buying books for the Montgomery County Public Library (MCPL), to the detriment of our core mission to fund innovations to prepare libraries for the future.

And - back to the math - even if the Friends of the Library gave MCPL its last penny, we could afford just 10 percent of the books the libraries need.

Buying books is the county's job. The county executive and County Council always tell us they "love libraries." If they love libraries, they should show it. Pay for them.

Ann Dorough, Bethesda

The writer is president of Montgomery County Friends of the Library.

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I use the James M. Duncan Branch Library in Alexandria. More than a year ago, I inquired about a relatively new popular book, only to be told there were 152 people on the waiting list to borrow the book. After purchasing it at Costco and reading it, I donated it to my library.

In the past, I've kept my books, my treasures, on my shelves. Now instead of them collecting dust, my newly purchased treasures move on to the library as soon as I've read them. It's been painful letting them go, but the thought of so many others enjoying them makes me smile.

In these times, it would help our underfunded library systems if readers, particularly of new top sellers, donated their books to their local library for others to enjoy. Donating money is a good thing, too.


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