New Jersey's state assembly is considering legislation to put in place a referendum mechanism for the dissolution of public libraries. The bill was introduced by Assemblymen Alex DeCroce (District 26) and Jay Webber (District 26) and Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (District 14) in late June. According to the bill:
This addresses a recent judicial decision of the Passaic County Superior Court which held there was no mechanism in New Jersey statutory law to facilitate the dissolution of free public libraries. Municipalities may find it cost effective to dissolve their free public library as a result of decreased circulation or a desire to share library services with an adjoining municipality.The remainder of the legislation can be seen below or found in PDF on the New Jersey Library Association's site.
If a municipality chooses no longer to support its public library, it's their choice. And it's up to librarians to convince them that the library is an indispensable service. However, what alarms me about this bill is that only ten days' notice in five public locations and two newspapers is required in advance of a referendum that decides the fate of a major public service, not to mention the jobs of dozens or more of skilled knowledge workers.
Let's face it: few people read the newspaper, fewer pay attention to referendum notices on public cork boards, and fewer still even vote in referendums. Therefore, it's entirely likely that an anti-library or lower-my-taxes contingent could use this mechanism to bull rush their agenda through local government.
Just imagine if former Wasilla, Alaska, Mayor Sarah Palin, an eager banner of books, had such a legislative mechanism at her disposal?