In late March, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander proposed cutting 13 Missouri State Library positions. This is actually a pretty dramatic cut for the state library. But what has librarians shocked is not the proposed cuts.
Let’s face it, this is an era of recession and recovery. Layoffs and budget cuts are a way of life. They make us sad, but they don’t make us hate Jason Kander. I don’t know whether he recognized the importance of libraries in the community, or the role that his library system plays in facilitation and assistance to all the public, private and special libraries across the state. And really, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he doesn’t know what librarians do.
He did not consult with any of the state libraries, or even the library directors about this decision. According to Kander “My staff researched for months before this reorganization. (And) we determined that too much of the money was going to staff, administrative costs and little-used programs, so we eliminated those inefficiencies” (This quote came from here: http://www.newstribune.com/news/2013/apr/06/kander-defends-plan-local-librarians-are-unhappy/ . I did the bolding all by myself!)
And this, my friends is where the problem lies. He did not allow librarians to do what they do best: research and answer questions. Stating that his staff did the research is like telling a college professor you did all your research via Google and Wikipedia. And nothing angers a librarian more than making decisions about her job without allowing her to do proper inquiries (preferably using Boolean Operators). Because Kander has declined to meet with the Missouri Library Association to talk about these cuts, which will go into effect July 1, 2013, MLA wrote a strongly worded and well-researched letter to express their outrage: http://molib.org/news/040213-pressrelease-sosresponseletter.pdf. Holy library anarchy, Batman.
The bottom line is this: I, as a librarian who lives and votes in Missouri, am not happy with both Kander’s method of making cuts and his refusal to sit down and talk with a library association or any librarians about the job cuts. Likely those talks would not have changed anything other than make librarians feel like their voices had been heard. But not even meeting with them- that seems very arrogant. Kander, you will not be getting my vote.