Thursday, June 30, 2011
Karin Slaughter, Guest Blogger
Last year, I gave a speech to a group of librarians in Portland, OR, thanking them for all they were doing while bemoaning the cut in funding to our nation’s libraries. Staff are being fired. Facilities are being closed. Hours are being cut. I compared what was happening with funding cuts to a tsunami eroding the shores of our education system. I said that funding libraries, giving children access to reading, was a matter of national security.
I still believe those words, but at the time, they felt a bit hollow to me, sort of like I was cheering on the troops to battle, only afterward, we all put down our weapons and had some tea instead of going to war. I felt really bad about that, and decided to try to think of something to do that would actually deliver real help where it was needed most.
By help, I of course mean money, because while America will spend eleven billion dollars building schools in libraries in foreign nations, America is loathe to spend money on building schools in our own communities. Politicians look for ways to save money, and libraries are an easy target. They forget that for eighty percent of kids in rural areas, the library offers their only access to reading and the Internet outside of school. They ignore that most companies only accept online applications now, and that adults without computer access are effectively left out of the job market. They don’t bother to find out that book clubs, community groups and literacy action organizations meet at the library. Most importantly, they don’t seem to understand that for every dollar spent on a library, four dollars is returned to the community.
That’s why I created Save the Libraries, which is an author initiative to raise money that will go directly to libraries. With the help of the International Thriller Writer’s association, I and fellow authors Kathy Hogan Trochek (aka Mary Kay Andrews) and Kathryn Stockett held the first Save the Libraries fundraiser at our local Dekalb County Library, which is just outside the Atlanta area. After expenses were paid, we raised $50,000. This represented the only money the Dekalb system had with which to buy books for the year. It was a lifeline for a system that has crashed on more than its share of rocky shores.
The second program will be held in Boston sometime in October. Linda Fairstein, Joseph Finder, Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen and I will host an event to raise money for the Boston Public Library system. As we did in Dekalb, we’ll open an eBay store where people from all over the world can bid on items such as having their name appear in the next Michael Connelly book or joining my agent for lunch in New York. We plan to reach out to the local Boston business community and ask them for sponsorship. We plan to tap into new donors who don’t yet know that their libraries are in danger of being lost.
I suppose the most important task Save the Libraries has before them is educating people about the great stress our libraries are under. My Dekalb system was closed several days in December because they could not afford to heat the buildings. There is a brand new branch that can’t be opened because there’s no money to turn on the lights. These are not isolated incidences. Libraries all across the country are in dire need. If we don’t do something to help them, their governments will end up spending the money anyway, whether it’s through lost tax revenue or ramping up their police force.
Soon, we’ll announce a national raffle to send ITW authors to four more libraries across the country. The details are still in the works, but please know that authors are doing everything we can to help our champions on the front line. I don’t know a single author who doesn’t have a story of transformation through their childhood library. They have done so much for us for so long. It’s time we gave something back.
Is it any wonder I'm always eager to host Karin Slaughter? On behalf of librarians and library users everywhere, thank you, Karin.
Karin Slaughter's website is http://www.karinslaughter.com/
Fallen by Karin Slaughter. Random House. ©2011. ISBN 9780345528209 (hardcover), 400p.