Of the cutbacks that have been coming from the sluggish economy, one of the most regrettable was the announcement this week that the Dougherty County Library Board of Trustees will be shutting down two of the county's five libraries.
Citing cuts to the Dougherty library system's budget for the Fiscal year 2013, which starts July 1, the trustees have decided to close the Southside branch on Habersham Road off Oakridge Drive and the Westtown branch on Waddell Avenue.
The two branches will be shuttered on June 30 and six system employees will lose their jobs. Materials in the two facilities will be redistributed to the three surviving branches, Central on North Jackson Street in downtown; Northwest on Dawson Road, and Tallulah Massey on Stratford Drive.
Meanwhile, the austerity measures impact those three facilities as well. The Central library will close two hours earlier on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the Northwest branch will close two hours earlier on Thursdays. All three will close at 2 p.m. on Saturdays, four hours earlier than the current 6 p.m. closing times.
Some argue that libraries are anachronisms in the electronic information age, a holdover from a time when information wasn't a few keyboard strokes away on a computer hooked up to the Internet. But libraries have done a great deal to stay relevant, providing Wi-Fi service and computers, adding events such as storytimes for children, making available genealogy material, providing research material, providing meeting space for organizations and even lending ebooks.
And you can still borrow books and enjoy the pleasure of turning real pages as you soak in the words.
Libraries also provide access to information that is free -- no monthly Internet charges, no download fee for an ebook. Particularly in a time when jobs are scarce and money is tight, libraries continue to provide a needed community service. They provide learning opportunities that are not duplicated anywhere else at a price anyone can afford.
While we understand the trustees' decision and know that public funding is tight everywhere, we hope these measures can be reversed at some point when the economy is stronger.
-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board