Most op-ed pages require submissions to be limited to around 750 words. Please contact your newspaper in advance of submitting an op-ed draft to find out the word limit, the preferred method of submission [email or fax are most frequent] and a name of an individual whom you can contact by phone both to ensure your submission arrived and to edit it, should it be accepted.
Healthy Democracy Depends on Vital Libraries
By [Name of Author]
Only free countries have free libraries. In our faltering economy, with the fiscal health of government at every level in the grip of a bad flu, how will we be able to continue to support the right to the free knowledge that is so vital to the health of our libraries and the people they serve?
Unfortunately, this is neither a theoretical nor hypothetical question. Libraries in almost every state are being impacted by budget cuts that threaten the delivery of essential services. The Phoenix Public Library is slated to shut down for one day each week as a result of budget cuts that also limit the library's ability to buy new books and DVDs. Budget cuts are also on the table in Philadelphia, as the city plans to close 11 branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia system and eliminate Sunday hours at three regional libraries. Budget cuts have also been announced in San Diego, which is proposing to save costs by closing seven branch libraries. Operating hours in dozens of libraries around the country have been slashed—reducing access to a world of free resources and the expert assistance of library staff.
And yet the great irony is that the worse the state of the economy, the more libraries are heavily used. That is certainly true here in (NAME OF COMMUNITY.) Since [NAME A MONTH, SAY HOW YOUR NUMBERS HAVE CHANGED] visits have increased [???] percent and circulation is up [???] percent, but we have had to [cut programs, cut hours, cut staff??? ADD TO YOUR STORY HERE.] [Has your library been giving more and better service with the same or fewer resources?]
Everyone loves libraries, but libraries can't live on love alone. Whether it's for story hours, job information for the unemployed, vital health care facts, netsurfing, market research for starting or supporting a business, finding scholarships, planning travel, becoming a citizen or simply curling up with a good novel, each library in America serves a wide range of needs in the information age.
Far too often, funding priorities for libraries have not reflected their demonstrated value and service successes to the communities they serve. Despite this, there are few Americans who don't clearly understand the value provided by their public, school and university libraries.
If people speak out they can save their libraries. They are among the most effective of all public services, serving more than 2/3 of the public with less than 2 percent of all tax dollars. What's more, they are an important part of the solution to the problems facing us from unemployment to staying up to date on changing world events.
Libraries are a public good. Libraries enrich both the 67% of the public that regularly uses them each year, as well as the rest of the community that benefits from what those users have learned.
What, then, are our options?
The beauty and strength of America's libraries is that they're distinctive institutions that meet the unique needs of the communities they serve. Our local library's [name of your library] collection was selected and organized to meet our community needs.
Some communities will try bond issues. Others will seek the right blend of book sales and corporate philanthropy. Still others will apply for the support at various levels of government.
Fortunately, [Name of City's] library users and their counterparts around the country are committed to and love their libraries. We, as trustees, or friends of the [NAME OF LIBRARY] are confident that given clear alternatives, our community won't sit back and allow to be curtailed vital library services or personnel that their communities need even more during these economically trying times.
Instead, we trust that the community will join us in demanding that its library (ies) get the funding that will enable it to continue to deliver the library services everyone needs to live, work, relax and govern effectively! Knowing that librarians cannot live on love alone, we also insist that the entire library staff be paid living, equitable wages. Our community deserves the best professional service and competent staff who are paid fairly. [These ideas may vary from place to place, so please use language that fits your circumstances.]
The current economic climate is challenging for libraries. But based on the increased demand for what we offer, we expect no less than renewed public commitment and support, starting in [Name of City].
Name of Author and Title of library Board Member for identification, plus contact phone number.