Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yo, Philly! Ben Franklin Here, Talkin' to Youse From the Grave

Yo, Philadelphians! Benjamin Franklin here, talkin' to you from the grave. I know it's been awhile and some of you might even need a refresher course on exactly who I am, but listen up.

Seems I've been hearing rumors from a few of the Founding Fathers that as of October 2, the entire Philadelphia library system is going to be shut down. And to that I ask you people one question:


I mean, seriously. I leave you people alone for 219 years, and after all I've done for you brats - electricity, that kite thing, the post office, etc. - this is how you repay me? By threating to close the libraries?

Oh, no need to take my word for it. I only founded your damn library for you, back in the day of 1731. If it wasn't for me, you selfish pricks wouldn't even know what a library is. But, here it is, read it and weep, right here on the Free Library of Philadelphia's website:

We deeply regret to inform you that without the necessary budgetary legislation by the State Legislature in Harrisburg, the City of Philadelphia will not have the funds to operate our neighborhood branch libraries, regional libraries, or the Parkway Central Library after October 2, 2009.

Specifically, the following will take effect after the close of business, October 2, 2009:
  • All branch and regional library programs, including programs for children and teens, after school programs, computer classes, and programs for adults, will be cancelled
  • All Parkway Central Library programs, including children programs, programs to support small businesses and job seekers, computer classes and after school programs, will be cancelled. We are exploring the possibility of relocating the Philadelphia Author Series programs to other non-library facilities.
  • All library visits to schools, day care centers, senior centers and other community centers will cease.
  • All community meetings at our branch and regional libraries, and the Parkway Central Library, will be cancelled.
  • All GED, ABE and ESL programs held at Free Library branches will be discontinued, students should contact their teacher to see if other arrangements are being made.

Yeah, you could say I'm pissed. You, Pennsylvania, are the only state in the country - the country! - without a frickin' budget. Which, I might remind you, should have been done back in July, latest. I mean, are you kiddin' me? What am I, a clown? The mess you've left is nothing short of a disaster. You've got nonprofits without funding, cutting critical services, people losing their jobs left and right, the longest recession in God knows how long. You're talking about Doomsday Budgets and cutting 3,000 police officers and firemen in the City of Brotherly Love.

You really don't know how good you have it. Back in my day (I'm talking the 1730s, pal) books were rare and expensive. There were no libraries. Only the very wealthy and the clergy had access to large numbers of books. Even men of moderate means could not readily afford books. So, I rounded up a few folks and for 40 shillings or something, we started a library. Simple.

Youse could take a lesson from that. What I think you people need to do is lock yourselves up in some room, kind of like what happened that hot as hell summer when we were writing your goddamn Declaration of Independence in Independence Hall, nary an air conditioner in sight. You wanna see some finger-pointing and bickering? I'll show you some finger-pointing and bickering.

But the point is, we got the job done, didn't we? Not like you schmucks, going on your third month without a state budget. You ... you're an embarrassment. Rome was built sooner than this shit.

Yeah, I know that the closure of your libraries would be a temporary sort of thing, until you get your rears in gear with your budget. And I've heard some people say that you're cryin' wolf, that you're using the libraries as pawns in a political game. That it's your mayor's fault, your governor's fault, or that kid Barack Obama's fault. Well, you know what I think? I don't give a rusty rat's behind whose fault this is. Just fix it already! Get the job done.

All I know is that people depend on Philadelphia's libraries. Look at all those people who would be affected by this. Come October 2, they'll have diddly-squat, thanks to you. In the immortal words of the great John Lennon, I ask you this: how do you sleep? How do you sleep at night?

Before your libraries close their doors, there's one book that you might want to check out while you still have the opportunity. It was pretty popular back in my day. Called Common Sense, by Thomas Paine. Take it from me: youse need a little bit of it.

Now, I've said my piece. It's up to you to figure this shit out. If you need me, you know where to find me.

Right here. Spinnin' in my grave.


Beth Kephart said...

This made me sadder than I can say. I have spent hours at the Free Library, researching my favorite books. Everywhere I go, I am asking: is this for real? are they serious?

In any case,

On another topic altogether, I hope you know that the 3Rs is out there JUSTLY singing your praises.



Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

I truly hope this doesn't come to pass. I can't think about this without having Bruce Springsteen's "My City in Ruins" in my head (which is what I originally had as the angle for this post, but it was too sad, so I resorted to some attempt at humor.)

Thanks for the heads up ... yes, Florinda is so sweet to be mentioning me. There's so many wonderful BBAWers out there! What an overwhelming week.

Florinda said...

I have to say I hate your topic, but I do love your approach to it. I read about this on another blog this afternoon, and was waiting to see what you'd have to say about it.

California has its own budget mess, of course, trickling down. Our school district actually cut library funds this year. The library at my nephews' school was going to be run by a PTA volunteer (my sister). They've now found money for a library clerk for 10 hours a week.

But that's just a school in one small city, not a major municipal library system. This is a travesty. "My City in Ruins" is a fitting theme.

Jessica said...

I've been hearing about this and I am stunned. Here in Kirkland, when our local branch was going to close temporarily while they renovated, the city was in an uproar and a local bookstore donated space to house a temporary branch. I can't imagine a whole city without libraries. It is appalling and so sad.

Lori said...

Normally, I adore my city!! But this is making me sick. My kids are in catholic school where I'm paying $830 a month and they can't have their books because the state hasn't settled the budget and paid the publisher! NO BOOKS in school??? I'm so ashamed of Pennsylvania! Rendell should be disgusted with himself and his boys.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Working backwards here ...

Lori - I just heard about the Catholic schools and no textbooks this morning (either on Smerconish or KYW, don't remember which) and was appalled at that too. WTF?! I'm with you that I love Philly, always will, but this ... ((shakes head)). I'm seeing Rendell at the Women's Conference tomorrow. Maybe I'll bring a printout of this post. :)

Jessica - thanks ... it is really awful.

Florinda - glad you liked the approach, and might I say how flattered I am that one of my readers is actually WAITING for my views on something?! Wow. That's very cool. Come Oct. 2, you might be seeing a post with "My City in Ruins."

And Beth, I know ... still shaking my head, too.

Becca said...

Great post! I'm sure our Founding Fathers are spinning - for many reasons, actually!

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

To all - seems that the shutdown has been averted! PA still doesn't have a budget, but they will not need to close the libraries (even on a temporary basis) now. Blog post to come soon ... stay tuned!