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The governing body of the American Library Association, of which I am a member, passed a resolution opposing the closure of the Salinas, California library system. While there have been and will continue to be far too many stories about libraries in crisisâ€”cuts in hours, staff, and materials, this is the first time that a community the size of Salinas will have had its library service wiped out completely. Two of the libraries are named for Cesar E. Chavez and John Steinbeck, who not only represent the spirit of Salinas, but whose words and work belong to the world. Most certainly, efforts will be made to restore service in some form, but for a library to most effectively serve its community, there needs to be continuity. When service is restored, there will be a gap: Staff who have served their community long and well will have moved on, and cancelled magazine and newspaper subscriptions will be represented by empty spaces on the shelves. More than personnel, materials and service gaps, there will be a credibility gap. Any community with a library takes that service for granted. Even to those who donâ€™t regularly use the library, or ever use the library, there is the knowledge that there is a library there, just in case. Without drastic, immediate action, Salinas will be without this safety net by June 17, 2005, the last day employees can work. Doors will be locked to the public before that. ALA does not have the authority to keep the doors open in Salinas, but can provide its voice and support to the people who live there. I hope that ALA will be prepared to help, without question or hesitation, should this shameful situation happen elsewhere.
The resolution, which was brought forth by Michael McGrorty, follows. This is ALA at its best.â€œTherefore be it resolved that the American Library Association strongly opposes the closure of the Salinas system, which opposition arises from recognition of the ALA policy statement, Libraries an American Value, which provides, 'Libraries in America are cornerstones of the communities they serve. Free access to the books, ideas, resources, and information in Americaâ€™s libraries is imperative for education, employment, enjoyment and self-government.':
And be it further resolved, that this resolution be communicated by the President of the American Library Association, the Governor of California, the Mayor and the City Council of Salinas, California, the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Speaker of the California State Assembly, the President pro tem of the California Senate and the Friends of the Salinas Public Library.
And be it further resolved, that the President of the American Library Association draft a statement concerning this resolution for distribution to the press, the public, the community of Salinas and the nation."