Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Good Knight and Good Luck

I suppose it was inevitable, but it was honestly unplanned. Usually I rehearse my impassioned speeches in the bathroom mirror and make sure I'm wearing something other than a t-shirt and flip-flops when I deliver them. But there I was, talking to one of the immaculately dressed trustees, feeling crestfallen by the tiny turnout at Knight Memorial Library, and when she asked me what I thought about fundraising strategies for the branches, I momentarily teetered on my imaginary soap box and told her what I thought.

But let me rewind. When I walked into the Knight Memorial meeting, I was greeted by a woman I hadn't seen before, who made small talk, offered cookies, and steered me toward a carefully selected PPL rep. You'd think I'd be tired of talking to Tonia and Dale, but I learn something new every time.

This time I learned (or realized, because it should have been obvious, but wasn't) that all of PPL's proposed "options of continuing branch services" separate city-and-state money from PPL money. What PPL is offering is to let the city (and/or representatives from the public) manage city-and-state funds. What PPL is not offering is to let anyone besides the trustees participate in what the private nonprofit does with its funds. And apparently, what the private nonprofit wants to do with its funds is channel all of them into the downtown library. So all of their solutions cut the branch libraries off from the main library--and from the precious endowment.

So fastforward to me and the trustee. She said she thought that fundraising for the branches would have to be done separately from fundraising for the downtown library. And that's when, right hand atremble, I said (or thought I was saying, because of course I don't remember exactly what came out) ...

...that I became a librarian because I wanted to equalize access and remove disparities in society, and by funding the downtown library and excluding the branches, the trustees are choosing to reinforce disparities. They are priveleging people who can access the main branch and cutting off families and many working people, and most of all children. And if fundraising for the branches is done separately, then the wealthy communities will have better resources--and that's obviously already true, if you look at Rochambeau--and then libraries will just be part of the process of cacifiying socio-economic differences and dividing us and depriving people.

When you say things like that, that you really believe, you do it in sort of a glow of embarassment and earnestness, and later the memory is a little fuzzy. It doesn't help when the trustee tells you that you look about sixteen, which is probably your own fault for coming in flip-flops, but you were on the phone with your friend from Alaska until just 8 minutes before the meeting.

Anyway. I also learned that the union has the list of 53 employees PPL is planning to let go. The union is holding on to the list rather than issuing pink slips because they hope no one will actually have to go. But I should know about my own fate by June 1. As I left, the trustee wished me good luck. As though she had nothing to do with what happened. Which seems to be what everyone at PPL thinks: that it has nothing to do with them.

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