From the Cites & Insights April 2012 entitled “Public Library Closures:
On Not Dropping Like Flies”:
“For those who don’t have the patience for a long, rambling essay with lots of background and detail, here’s the tip of the pyramid:
As far as I can tell, at most seventeen public libraries within the United States closed in 2008 or 2009 and have apparently not reopened as of March 2012. That’s 17 out of 9,299 (in 2009) or 9,284 (in 2008) or 0.2%. […]
Why does this matter? I’ll get to that—and to why these figures may be different than some you’ve heard, read or assumed. The answer is not that I’m trying to make everything in public libraryland seem rosy. It is that I believe it behooves librarians to know what they’re talking about—that even more than in most fields, they have a responsibility to know the facts behind their assertions.” [emphasis mine]
It’s a long but well researched piece by Walt Crawford illustrating how the illusion of public libraries closing does not match with reality. Yes, budgets are down, branches are being closed, services and hours and staff are being cut, but the number of libraries actually being closed is extremely small. Some of the rhetoric (and I’m quite sure I’m guilty of it myself) around library closings works to invoke people’s emotional response and play on the public’s fear and apprehensions. That isn’t a card that can be constantly played without being called out on it.
Also, I think blaring a constant state of distress can lead to advocacy issue fatigue; it makes libraries sounds like the constant victim of a political Snidely Whiplash, perpetually finding ourselves tied down to the budget train tracks. “Save Our Library” cannot be the constant and knee jerk battle cry to all budget announcements; a little more assessment and impact needs to be determined before warming up those war drums.
I’m not without sympathy for that 0.2% of communities that no longer have libraries, but building a overarching and rampant narrative out of that seems a bit intellectually dishonest.