There's a briefing for council today on whether or not our public library system sucks. Looks like the verdict will be that it does not totally suck, but it should, because we do.
The briefing is based on a nationwide bench-marking system Dallas participates in with most other second-tier cities in the country, along with some third-tiers and some downright damn suburbs. The survey shows that we care about our libraries, visit them and use them at above average rates.
Our visitation per capita, for example, is ahead of Phoenix, San Antonio and Miami-Dade but behind Austin and ... no, c'mon. Arlington? They gotta mean Arlington, Virginia. I'll have to watch. Maybe some sharp councilperson will raise that question. If Arlington, Texas goes to the library more than Dallas, Texas, then just shoot us.
We like our libraries a lot. Almost 94 percent of us told somebody with a clipboard that we think the libraries here are good to excellent, beating out Austin and Phoenix. The only place that beats us, really, is ... no, c'mon... Arlington? We've gotta get some clarity on this.
Why we say we like our libraries so much is sort of a mystery if you look look at how much support we're willing to give them. We're way in last place. Way.
The operations and maintenance budget for Dallas libraries is $25.24 per year per registered borrower, behind Phoenix, San Antonio, Austin, Miami-Dade and certain other meager municipalities not to be mentioned here again today. Miami-Dade spends more than twice what we do.
One never knows what kind of impression a report like this is going to make on our merry council members. We have to assume at least a couple of them will ask for a break on some fines owed by a worthy loved one. I can think of one member who will want to ask where the library is, but maybe by now she knows better than to ask when the cameras are rolling.
And then you have the fiscal hawks who will say, "See! Our people here in Dallas are easily pleased! Let's slash the library budget some more."
We can only hope a couple of them will see the real message: people in Dallas really do care about and use the library system, so y'all need to quit bleeding it to the bone.
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