Thank you, Neil deGrasse Tyson

by Vicky on May 17, 2011

I was discouraged and depressed tonight because the Albuquerque City Council just voted (5 to 4) to fund a lot of new construction projects, while cutting 6 or 7 library positions.  The library system has sustained a 25 percent cut in personnel since 2007 relative to an 8 percent cut in personnel city-wide.  If you go back ten years, it’s more like a 40 percent cut.  Yet the mayor insists that library hours must be maintained.

The City of Albuquerque is forcing the library system to use the unfair practice of employing permatemps to keep the libraries open.  Temporary librarians, who have master’s degrees in library and information science and years of experience, are making $11.67 per hour with no benefits as they work side by side with regular city employees who make a regular salary with benefits.  Every two years, the temps are laid off for 3 months and then rehired.

Since I am a temporary youth services librarian, and about to be laid off just in time for the Summer Reading Program, you may understand my frustration.

When I happened upon a recent interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, I felt a blaze of happiness as I read:

“Getting kids interested in science is not the challenge.  Kids are born interested in science.”

The challenge, Tyson believes, is to get out of the way of their curiosity, let them develop their skills, use their creativity.

“There is no greater education than one that is self-driven.  You go to the library, visit museums because you want to learn, and your quest for knowledge outside of school magnifies what happens when you are in school.”

Yes! Neil deGrasse Tyson knows that libraries are places where kids get to explore their passions, feed their curiosity, and be creative.  And librarians are guides, creative catalysts, mothers and fathers of invention, and fellow explorers.

The mayor and his cronies, on the other hand, (who, under pressure from library supporters, grudgingly penciled in a lame, cockamamie proposal that might add in some money for library positions dependent upon the fluctuation of the price of gasoline if the city is able to lock in a favorable price) don’t seem to understand or care how libraries work together with the schools to support education.  In a state in which 80 percent of fourth graders don’t read at grade level, the summer reading program is a crucial backup to stop summer reading loss.

As Councilor Garduño told the mayor—after pointing out that Albuquerque was next to last in per capita dollars spent on libraries among a list of “best cities to retire to”—you can keep building those big houses up in the hills while letting the infrastructure crumble, but you can’t keep on fooling the people.  Speaking of fooling the people, Channel 7 news reported that the council voted to restore the library positions.  It will be interesting to see what the Albuquerque Journal reports tomorrow.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, thank you. 

City Council members Sanchez, Garduño, Benton, and O’Malley, thank you for your support for libraries.

Thank you for taking the long view.

Thank you for believing in our children.  Tomorrow night I’ll be at the Inez Elementary School’s Family Summer Reading event talking up our library’s Summer Reading Program, which will be missing a youth services librarian.

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