They closed a neighborhood library in Camden yesterday. Camden – one of New Jersey’s most disadvantaged cities – bearing the brunt of the Bush Recession and the Christie Depredation with an order of magnitude more grief than most of us.
They say that nature abhors a vacuum, and the vacuum created for the children in that neighborhood by the closing of the Fairview Branch library will be filled by drug dealers, gangs, and other nefarious forces. So by closing the library, Camden residents will be forced to spend more on the already overworked police department and judicial system.
Many Camden teens will lose their only access to the Internet – vital in this day and age to secure even the most low-paying jobs. Younger children will miss out on the joy of reading – exploring real and imaginary worlds to spark their desire and commitment to a better life, not to mention losing tools that foster better academic performance. The neighborhood, which has been coming together over the last decade, will lose a gathering place that helps advance that cohesion. And while the library staff, which consists of two employees, will be transferred to other branches, it’s only a matter of time before they or their colleagues will join the ranks of the unemployed, as the other branches in Camden are on track to close also.
The entire budget shortfall (not just the libraries) for the City of Camden is $28 million. That’s how much we spend on the war in Iraq in four hours. Despite the fact that the recovery of one of New Jersey’s most historic cities is vastly more important than the oil wars in the Middle East, it impractical to just stop the war for four hours to make up the shortfall. But we could stop the war for good, and use those funds to revitalize Camden, and the scores of other urban areas and their people who represent the future of America. Where are our priorities?