Sued51's Blog

{March 12, 2010}   Don’t Close the Libraries—Think Outside the Building

The closing of libraries has been in the news a lot recently.  Towns, cities, counties need to step up and work together to figure out a creative answer to this problem.  In this difficult economy, libraries are more important than ever to those out of work—a place to go to get out of the house, a place to do free research, a place to do online job searching for those without home computers.  With all the people out of work, how can local governments and talented people without jobs help each other?

I think it is unrealistic to expect these people to volunteer without something in return; they can’t afford the time away from job searching.  My mother works at the senior citizen center in her town.  She “volunteers” but also told me she receives a tax write-off.  Why can’t libraries do something similar?  With some training, the library could be mostly staffed with volunteers. 

My town usually has one book sale a year put on by the “Friends of the Library”— couldn’t there be more than one book sale a year? Aren’t there other ways to make money for the library?  People go to Starbucks and read the newspaper or use their computers there, while they have breakfast, as an inexpensive way to get out of the house.  Why can’t the library sell coffee or snacks to support it?  The library could have a Tassimo machine, which wouldn’t cost them that much to buy; a local bakery could supply the pastries. Why shouldn’t the library have a pleasant and comfortable area where it is permissible for people to have drinks or food?

My husband and I brainstormed about this one day. My husband brought up “BerkShares” ( ).  I thought it was a great concept, but it is not new.  BerkShares have been in circulation since 2006 with some success, but the concept has been used since the early 1900s.  Bartering services goes on through Craigslist and between local people but isn’t highly publicized.  Is it time to reconsider such an economic tool?

What about paying volunteers in local “currency” as pay for local services?  My town has to pay for trash bags…what about people being paid in “[your town] Bucks” for picking up trash or recycling and allowing them to use the local “bucks” to buy trash bags?  The small businesses that use this currency could be provided with some kind of monetary break (for example, a $1.00 BerkShare can be bought for $.95). This could help the unemployed by allowing them to trade their time for local services, help the cities and towns to accomplish goals, and increase the tendency of citizens to shop locally.

Spread the word; if your local government does not know about this, they should.


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