At its meeting on November 15, 2011, the Detroit Library Commission approved the closure of four branch libraries. The Lincoln, Mark Twain, Monteith, and Richard Libraries will regretfully close their doors, despite the efforts of protestors and fundraisers to save them. The money, members of the The Detroit Library Commission say, was simply too little too late. The city’s public library system faces a projected $17 million budget deficit, and shrinking tax revenues are largely to blame for the system’s budget shortfall. “We cannot operate based upon maybes right now," Detroit Library Commissioner, Jonathan Kinloch says. "The city of Detroit, and particularly the library's finances, are flying off a cliff. So we have to make sound business decisions to adjust to the declining revenue.”
|Yvette Bing, the first lady of Detroit, reads to children at the Children's Library in the Detroit Public Library|
Countless families have been affected by the closings. The library can be an invaluable resource in a community. Many locals find hope in the presence of a library, where their children can learn and satisfy their curiosities in a positive environment. Others who do not own computers rely on their library’s computers to conduct everyday business. Most importantly, libraries are not just rooms full of books, but collections of knowledge. Libraries host movie nights and storytelling, provide quiet study and gathering places, and offer tutoring to anyone with a library card. Detroit libraries also teach knitting and crochet, computer skills, tax assistance, jewelry making, and golf. It is our mission to help spread the word of the Detroit Library closings and bring back funding to these sorely missed cultural centers.
Detroit Connections works closely with children from The Marcus Garvey African Centered Academy in an effort to teach the importance of art and creativity. This semester, students from the University of Michigan are working with 4th graders on a project intended to raise public awareness of our closed libraries. The class was inspired by a quickly growing concept, which originated in Cologne, Germany. Public bookshelves have been sprouting up in German cities, where passersby are encouraged to borrow a book or leave a book based on the honor system. What’s best about this idea is that it really works! The bookshelves are always full, and volunteers keep them clean and tidy. University of Michigan college students intend to design and build four bookshelves to place outside, near each of the closed libraries, which the children will paint and embellish.
|Outdoor bookshelf in Frankfurt, Germany|
The Garvey students have been working hard, writing, illustrating, and binding their own books, which will be placed on the shelves among other, donated books. Over the course of about 6 weeks, the 4th graders have developed their characters, setting, and plot with awesome results. Click here to visit our Flickr page and see more photos of the kids and their creations. Both the college students and Garvey 4th graders are very excited to work on this project together. Stay tuned to our blog to follow our progress and, of course, all the fun we have!