I received an email this week, marked “Plea for the library” on the subject line – perhaps you found it in your inbox, too. It originated with Karen Blumenthal, award-winning author, former Wall Street Journal bureau chief and member of the board of directors of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library.

Blumenthal warned that “the City of Dallas is trying to balance its budget by cutting even more from our once top-notch library system,” slashing 40% in 4 years. With this year’s planned $1.4 million in reductions, she says, we’ll spend “far less than any major city in the nation” on our libraries – less, even, than Fort Worth.

“With circulation up,” she added, “that means already long waiting lists for books and DVDs will grow longer. More jobs will be eliminated, meaning magazines and books won’t get shelved, lines will be longer and programs will be cut back. Those who rely on the library for access to computers, the Internet or job information will continue to be restricted to the limited hours that the branches and the downtown library are open.”

It’s a shame, she said, because our libraries are well-run and much-used. “People are waiting in line when the doors are open.” The budget is half what it should be for a city our size, she argued.

“If you want to live in an education, informed and equitable community,” she reasoned, “if you want to live in a city that cares about education and knowledge for all its citizens, if you think a well-run city has a responsibility to support a strong library system, then you need to let the city know.”

You can contact Mayor Mike Rawlings, your favorite councilman and other folks at City Hall via this link. You can join Friends of the Dallas Public Library here. You can track Dallas’ library spending via Blumenthal’s charts on the Dallas Observer Blog here.

“Apparently,” wrote Blumenthal, “the mayor and the city council will respond only if people complain.”

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