Monday, May 9, 2011

A Parable for Libraries by Storyteller Bob Kanegis

Recently, the Albuquerque city council heard comments from the public on a recommendation that their libraries be cut by 8 full time positions, on top of 8 vacancies not filled the prior year, on top of other cuts dating back to 2000. The recommendation represented a real reduction of 25%, compared with the goal of cutting the overall city staff by 8%. Bob Kanegis, a local storyteller, used his two minutes on the following parable:

A farmer had a wonderful horse that he worked 12 hours every day. One day he arrived in the fields and realized to his chagrin that he'd forgotten to feed the horse in the morning. Nevertheless, the horse worked the full 12 hours and all the work was accomplished. The farmer was surprised but also intrigued. Perhaps the horse could get by with less food.

So the next morning, the farmer fed the horse, but a little less than usual. Again, the horse finished the day and finished the work. And so it went. Each day the farmer continued the experiment. With each passing day the horse ate less and less and accomplished all the work.

Then on the 30th day, just as the experiment was going SO WELL, the darn horse up and died.

We have fabulous libraries here, and people who love them and use them often and well. A city staffer mentioned alluded to a survey that 70+ % of people here think the libraries are doing a great job even though the vacant positions were not filled. (So everything must be fine, right?)

He forwarded his parable and comments to a library professional organization with these words: "If you find this little parable useful, or perhaps too close to the truth, please feel free to pass it on in your advocacy work. One member of the city council alluded to the 'truth' and warning in the story, in strong comments he made in defense of the libraries. And thank you for your work and for being the bridge to the future and culture keepers that you are."

Here in Plainfield, the story is a little different. Our budget has increased, but nowhere near as much as library use and the population size! Per capita, the Library's budget has not changed since the early 1990's - and that's not adjusted for inflation. Our horse is being fed, but is working 24 hours a day!

Thank you, Mr. Kanegis, for supporting your local public library. Librarians are good at doing more with less. But that can lead to the assumption that we can continue doing more with less indefinitely.

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