Thursday, July 25, 2002

Library closings


Readers keep the heat on

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        Marty would like to drive a stake through my already bleeding heart.

        “You're a vampire,” he said in his customary growl.

        “A bloodsucker,” he added helpfully, in case I misunderstood his original insult. You can't be too subtle in Marty's opinion, because I am “stupid, stupid, stupid.” And a little on the “pinko” side to boot, pinko being interchangeable with “liberal.” Which is, of course, interchangeable with bleeding heart.

        All this is despite his most diligent efforts to educate me via first-name-only voicemail messages. Just now, he is sincerely ticked off by what he calls “your usual plan to take more money from working people.”

        Last week the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County announced that five branches would be closed.

        I couldn't help noticing that the $1.5 million in savings seemed like a drop in the bucket compared with money spent so lavishly on things that are not free and open to the public, such as sports palaces. Which are also, by the way, financed by working people.

Beulah in chains

        And the branches scheduled to close — Bond Hill, Deer Park, Elmwood Place, Greenhills and Mount Healthy — are hardly lounges for the filthy rich. Kids go to these community centers to use computers they couldn't otherwise afford, learning things that will enable them to become future working people. For the elderly, it's a place to connect.

        “I wish I knew what I could do,” Beulah Weppler, 88, says, “short of chaining myself to the counter.”

        A Hyde Park reader suggests corporate sponsors. Naming rights. How about the U.S. Bank/Deer Park Library? Surely the grateful people of Deer Park would never put their money anyplace else. Or the Pringles Public Library of Bond Hill? If I lived in Bond Hill, I'd eat those potato chips until they came out my ears.

        In Mason, a new building will open this winter that is part high school-part community recreation center and entirely sensible. Cincinnati Public Schools are on the brink of a billion-dollar building program. Why not put a branch library in every one, adding the public library's considerable knowledge, personnel and collections to the schools?

        Remarkably, as Hamilton County's population shrinks, library use here is growing. So, maybe our libraries are more important than our public officials knew.

        Or maybe more dear to us than we realized.

        If you have ideas or just a nice, tasteful check, send them along to the library's director, Kimber Fender, 800 Vine St., Cincinnati, 45202-2071.

        “We are going to fight as hard as we can to save our library,” writes Mary Kuemmel of Greenhills.

        “I am constantly appalled at the choices on how money is spent,” says Carol Phelan.

        “These branches are our lifelines,” says Koben Hinman.

        “Nothing has united the entire community more than this,” says JoAnn Bass.

        Frankly, Marty, all this uproar in support of books and education has quite a different effect than you expected.

        It does my heart good.

        E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393.

       

       



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