Library Service in Tough Economic Times

Things are a little crazy here in Charlotte. In case you haven’t heard we’ve had a gas shortage for over a week now. The pipeline that supplies this area was partially shut down, word got out, and chaos ensued as anyone with a vehicle (and gas cans) went to fill up.

What would have been a mild shortage has turned into a major headache as some people hoard gas while others cannot find gas to get to work, school, etc.

I was lucky enough to find gas this weekend but had to wait in line for an hour and watched as tempers flared.

Then today came word that one of the largest employers in our area, Wachovia, was bought by Citigroup. Charlotte is the headquarters for Wachovia and it is estimated that thousands of Wachovia employees will be laid off within the next year. I’m hearing from my online friends that the ripple effect is already being felt. Businesses who did contract work for Wachovia will be effected along with the people who provided services for those families–landscaping, house cleaning, retail, restaurants, and eventually the government will feel the affect from the huge loss of tax revenue.

Although the situation I’ve outlined is close to home for me, it is far from unique. Across the country there are similar stories of businesses and people in crisis. So what does this mean for libraries?

First and foremost people are unsure, scared, angry–stressed. Be empathetic. Be courteous. Be respectful. You have no idea what someone is going through.

If your library has a policy that prevents access to materials for customers who owe more than a certain amount in fines and fees, see what you can do to change this. In these tough financial times people need access to library materials and resources more than ever. The more people we can help find employment, the less people we will have on government assistance programs.

Realize that the economic challenges our country is facing effects your coworkers too. It is entirely possible that someone you work with is experiencing or has gone through bankruptcy or foreclosure on his or her home. Be extra kind to the colleague who is having a bad day.

In sum be kind to everyone. Be kind to yourself. That small act of kindness you show someone could make all the difference in a person’s day.

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 “One to Watch” for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.


  1. Thanks for this reminder Lori. I’m glad you and your family are doing ok!

  2. My heart sank a few inches yesterday when David forwarded me the Wachovia announcement. This is so huge for Charlotte and everyone in the community.

    My thoughts and prayers are definitely with family and friends who are anticipating the worse as result of this financial crisis. And to top it off … no gas…. ughh! Hang in there!

  3. Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing. My thoughts will be with you all in Charlotte.

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