Beyond books

We remember the Great Oil Bust of the early 80s. A lot of cars sported a bumper sticker like this: PLEASE, GOD, JUST ONE MORE BOOM / I PROMISE NOT TO PISS IT AWAY THIS TIME. Oklahoma City is not exactly the World’s Boomtown at the moment, but we’re doing pretty well compared to some parts of the country, some of which have been hurting for all the years between then and now. A Twitter friend wrote this up:

I work as a reference librarian at a public library in Lorain, Ohio, located about 30 minutes due west from Cleveland. Lorain is a smaller version of the Rust Belt cities you’ve all heard about: Cleveland, Youngstown, Buffalo, Toledo, Detroit. Lorain once made ships — George Steinbrenner of Yankees fame (or infamy) owned the local shipyard — cars (Fords), and the steel that went into them. Lorain no longer makes cars or ships things. One of the two steel mills is on “warm idle” (mill lingo for the cooling of the blast furnace used for making bar steel), which means that about two-thirds of its 1,000 employees are on indefinite layoff.

The recession of the early 1980s hit here hard and really never went away. The official county unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent and foreclosures are a huge problem as elsewhere in Ohio.

And so it was that the library became more than just the local book depository:

[M]y library held a “recession resources fair” to help people find out how they could perhaps better “survive” in the current economy.

If someone approached my table, I greeted them and explained what the library could offer — books on all aspects of the career search and job hunting process, computer access. I gave them handouts on resume help and offered my business card. If they seemed interested in that assistance, I then walked that person to the state employment agency table and introduced them to the counselor at that table, where they would then be told about what that agency could do for them — job training, classes on interview skills and resume writing, referrals to GED and English language classes and more computers for job searching.

Which, if you think about it, is not so far removed from what libraries usually do:

It was a concentrated version of what librarians do every day — tell people about what we have and where else they might go for more help. But this time, the additional sources of help weren’t a phone call away, but were maybe waiting for them inside a public library meeting room. I will likely never find out if anyone in that room received information or assistance that will make any kind of real difference in their lives. All any of us there could do was to try and help.

Incidentally, tomorrow (3 November) several Ohio libraries will have bond and levy issues on local ballots: since most of the Buckeye State’s libraries are funded by the state, and Columbus is broke, a lot of libraries face major cutbacks or worse. I’m not from around there, but I’ve made friends up thataway, and I’d hate to see this sort of thing happen to them.

(For comparison purposes, libraries in Oklahoma County get a levy through the local property tax, about which more anon.)

Addendum: “Man, nobody moves to Youngstown.” Oh, yeah?


  1. Gabrielle Dolly »

    3 November 2009 · 8:26 am

    Without even getting into the question of: how well is the money spent NOW (and why should we give you any more)?; (punctuate that, Harold Ross); there is the point that, in these parlous times, the levy WILL increase property taxes.

    And yet…

    The State hasn’t given us a concomitant tax CUT.

    Which leads to the inevitable snarkback: Oh yeah? You think YOU’ve got it bad?


  2. CGHill »

    3 November 2009 · 8:38 am

    Only you, Dolly, would invoke the sacred name of Harold Ross, which (not “that”) you seldom hear anymore.

    At least down here, we pay for this stuff at county (sometimes multi-county) level, which keeps the state from filching the funds for its own nefarious purposes.

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