Friday, June 4, 2010

Hard Times at the Charlotte Public Library

The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County as reported in the news is facing hard times as are many of our nation's libraries. A review of the history of the public library in Charlotte indicates that the library has faced and overcome hard times in the past. In 1930 during the great depression, the library's budget was cut from $66,000 to $20,000 and 17 library employees were laid off. The Carnegie library building (shown in the first postcard above) through lack of maintenance had deteriorated to the point that it "was in the worst condition of any building in the City". But that wasn't the worst of the hard times, because of a legal technicality the library was forced to go to a referendum for its operating budget in 1939 and the referendum failed. As a result, "On the evening of June 30, 1939, the doors of the Charlotte Public Library were locked. The staff went home, and for the first time in almost fifty years the city was without a library." On May 25, 1940 after almost a year without public library service, a second referendum was held. This time the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of adequate funding for the library. From that low point the library developed into one of the outstanding public libraries in the nation. Unfortunately, it is a hard and bitter pill to take that even the best public library service is not immune from the often unfair budget decisions made in a tough economy. I had the good fortune to work at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County on two occasions during my library career, and I wish them the best of luck in overcoming this round of adversity. The second postcard shows the building that replaced the Carnegie on the same site. That building was where I worked most of the time when I was in Charlotte. It has also been replaced by an even more elaborate facility.

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