Are we losing a strong bastion of democracy?

Libraries across the U.S. are facing funding crises as they become the latest victims of the recession. “In July, the Charlotte, N.C., library adopted a new budget that slashed nearly 30 percent of its funding and about 300 employees. In New York, libraries narrowly dodged an $82 million round of cuts thanks to public outcry earlier this year. The Milwaukee library system adopted austerity measures, only to find itself penalized for cutting too far. And the Free Library of Philadelphia only avoided a total shutdown through an act of the Pennsylvania State Senate. A majority of the country’s library systems are having to make cuts, according to the American Library Association, and many of those cutbacks are quite devastating, even if the headline numbers aren’t as large. As cities and counties deal with the slow recovery, the budgets many of them adopted this summer for the 2011 fiscal year have placed large chunks of library funding on the block. For desperate officials, it’s a soft target, but librarians warn that cutting hours and positions might actually slow down the pace of recovery.”

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