Sunday, March 07, 2010

One Little Girl Rides to the Rescue of Her Library

As more cities across the country desperately seek ways to slash budgets, it seems that municipal and county libraries are getting hit especially hard in the process. The excuse often given for chopping library budgets is that fewer and fewer citizens use their services. Unfortunately, this becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy: cut funds, put fewer books and DVDs on the shelves, fewer people will show up. Well, duh.

One little girl in Hull, Massachusetts, has had enough of this nonsense and she is fighting back. According to, sixth-grader Calliope Pina Parker came up with a plan to raise some cash for the library, even to rallying some local politicians to help her out:
Calliope is also an avid user of libraries, borrowing books from across the region and frequenting branches throughout the South Shore on her way to and from school, ballet, and karate practice. So it came as a particular blow when cuts in Hull not only sheared the library's budget and hours but also cost the town its state certification last month.

"Now people from Hull can't go to any other library," said Calliope, whose library card is no longer welcome in most other communities.
Today she organized an all-day "readathon" of the J.K. Rowling book that started it all, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," to raise awareness about the situation and money for the nonprofit group that supports the library.

Calliope, a student at the South Shore Charter Public School in Norwell, found a location, publicized the event through e-mail, fliers, and phone calls, and organized a network of readers that extended well beyond her circle of friends.

The schedule of participants, stretching across three poster sheets at the Weir River Estuary Center, included the names of two selectmen, allowed readers to go at their own pace -- some took a page, some half a chapter -- and provided flexibility for drop-ins.
To maintain certification with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners -- which enables local residents to borrow more broadly and allows a library to receive state aid and grants -- a community must meet a number of requirements for library spending and operating hours, based on population and past funding.

Cities and towns that fail to meet the minimums can seek a waiver, and 97 of them applied this year, nearly four times the number last year and higher than at any time in the last two decades. The board last month granted them all waivers except Hull, because the library was a singled out for a cut 58 percent greater than other departments in Hull's budget.
There you have it. Sometimes it takes a child to remind adults what is important. Well done, Calliope.

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