While many of us still think of libraries as one of those little luxuries that we could easily survive without, others do not. For some, libraries are a necessity they can ill afford to lose. I am fortunate enough to be able to drive to any one of three or four libraries within a 15-mile radius of my home. Others, who have lost their cars due to tough economic times, or who can't afford the insurance premiums or gas to keep them going, are unable to drive 15 miles across town to get to a library. Closing their local library branch means they will no longer have access to the library.
I have my own home computer with internet access as well as a laptop that I can use at my leisure to surf the net, improve my resume or look for a new job. Not everybody is so fortunate. Many of the unemployed no longer can afford a computer or the cost of internet service at home. If not for the computers at their local library branch, they would have no way to hone their resume or search online databases for jobs.
While I have a newspaper delivered every day and two on Sunday along with my favorite monthly publications, many people depend upon library periodicals to keep abreast of the news. For many, libraries are not a luxury but are part and parcel to their economic and spiritual survival.
The current debate on whether to close libraries or cut public safety and eliminate senior centers presents a false dichotomy. Public safety means more than funding officer salaries and paying for patrol cars. Keeping libraries open is fundamental to public safety. Children who learn to read do well in school. Children who do well in school go on to get advanced training and degrees. A well-trained workforce makes it easier to attract and keep businesses in Cobb County.
Public safety begins with our teens who we can either educate and give opportunities to or deal with out on the streets. The same is true for the unemployed and homeless friends, neighbors and former co-workers who have touched every one of us. They need the libraries now more than they ever did.
If we close libraries, we are shutting the doors on the people who need us most - a very real threat to public safety - as economic desperation often leads to crime and public unrest.
Now is the time to support our libraries, not close them. Pressuring the commissioners to cut library funding is a threat to public safety, not a vote in favor of it. Library budgets have already been slashed and hours drastically reduced. Both public and private funding is needed to ensure the libraries continue to stay open.
The Cobb Library Foundation is dedicated to helping raise private funding for Cobb County's libraries and is working harder this year than ever before. In 2011, the foundation has planned more than a dozen fundraisers across the county to help save the libraries. Many local citizens and organizations recognize the importance of keeping the libraries open and providing resources for the entire community-from children to seniors-and are partnering with the foundation to give their time and money to save the libraries.
Commissioners Tim Lee and JoAnn Birrell are two of several VIPs who helped the Cobb Library Foundation raise nearly $10,000 in private funds during its most recent fundraiser last weekend. Keeping our libraries open will require both public and private support and is a matter of survival for the citizens of Cobb, not a luxury to be trimmed from the budget.
Diane Cherry is the president of the Cobb Library Foundation, Inc. and a family law lawyer in Kennesaw.