The news that the Union County Library System is in financial trouble and will have to reduce its hours of operation serves as still another proof of the failings of state government.
For eight years, Haley Barbour inculcated Mississippi with level-headed, centrist leadership, giving Mississippians of all classes and colors a sense of pride and hope. Barber’s management of state finances, his superb leadership during the Hurricane Katrina crisis in 2005, his effectiveness in recruiting new industries and good jobs to our state, and his overall deportment, that of a educated, enlightened Southern aristocrat, earned our respect and earned respect for our state.
Then Barbour left the Governor’s Mansion, left the governor’s office in the hands of a Tea Party mediocrity.
Phil Bryant’s conduct from his first days in the governor’s chair have made it clear that Mississippi’s days of being last in everything are far from over. Both he and the state legislature, which seems to love his bumpkin homilies, have taken Mississippi a big step back into darkness. Hostility to public education, hostility to a sensible health care plan, which Barbour and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney had designed, and hostility in general to progressive political and economic thinking have been the hallmarks of Bryant’s governorship.
Pride of ignorance reigns in Jackson. It seems they might be pleased to see the kudzu cover the schools and libraries, the buildings occupied by squirrels and raccoons, and post oak sprouts growing through the roofs.
The fact that our local library has had to cut operations because of reduced funding by Bryant and his Lilliputian legislature is an insult to every thinking person in Union County.
Suggestions that the public library is something no longer needed, that it is obsolete in the days of the Internet and E-books, do not square with provable facts. Ink on paper is far from dead.
While it is true that ink-on-paper newspapers and magazines have declining circulation and that the decline is likely to continue, the same is not true for ink-on-paper books. Kindles and Nooks are quickly losing favor. Figures from the first quarter of 2015, the most recent reliable numbers we could find, show that eBook sales were off seven and a half percent (7.5%) while sales of books were significantly better the prior year. Trade paperbacks were up eight-and-two-thirds percent (8.6%).
This is not the time to make books less available in Union County. We are frankly not optimistic that the Bryant gang will forswear ignorance. The Union County government has done a relatively good job of funding the local library. We hope they can find a way to dig a little deeper.