We love librarians. My next-door colleague is on the phone with them all the time. According to an article in The New York Times, during this recession, libraries and librarians are now dealing with issues that weren’t exactly in their initial job description. Not only that, but their budgets are almost certainly being cut.
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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — The public library here had just closed its doors one evening in December when two homeless men who had been using the stacks as shelter from the cold got into a fight on the outside steps.
What began as bickering took a violent turn when one of the men pulled out a knife and stabbed the other six times, leaving him bleeding beside the book drop.
Like libraries across the country, Arlington Heights Memorial had strived to keep pace with the changing times, ensuring its relevance in the digital age by becoming something of an indoor town square, and emphasizing that its money-saving services catered to the community’s needs.
These days, however, community need reaches far beyond reference help — and in many libraries, it is turning a normally tranquil place into an emotional and stressful hotbed.
As the national economic crisis has deepened and social services have become casualties of budget cuts, libraries have come to fill a void for more people, particularly job-seekers and those who have fallen on hard times. Libraries across the country are seeing double-digit increases in patronage, often from 10 percent to 30 percent, over previous years.
But in some cities, this new popularity — some would call it overtaxing — is pushing libraries in directions not seen before, with librarians dealing with stresses that go far beyond overdue fines and misshelved books. Many say they feel ill-equipped for the newfound demands of the job, the result of working with anxious and often depressed patrons who say they have nowhere else to go.