Bombs, Not Books

January 01, 1986  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  National Review  ·  Economy

You can slash defense, you can rip law enforcement, but when you cut into the Library of Congress’s budget, people get mad.

Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin is so upset that he declared the cuts in the library budget were "a historic disaster" comparable only to "the burning of the ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt."

In the same vein, a lawyer employed by a Ralph Nader group organized a sit-in on the theme "Books, Not Bombs" to protest cuts in reading-room hours. Thirteen fire-breathing book-lovers were arrested during the first week after the new hours went into effect.

One day during the protests, the Reverend Jesse Jackson dropped by to save Western civilization. Seizing and holding aloft a little girl reading Watership Down, Jackson declared, "We are here to fight for access to books because books represent the oxygen for our minds."

He added, in what may have been a tempting offer to some, "Give us libraries, give us books, give us food, give us jobs, or give us death!"

In fact, the reading-room cutback and other service reductions may be unnecessary. In time-honored bureaucratic tradition Boorstin is striking back at Congress by cutting the library’s budget in such a way as to irritate the largest number of constituents.

The almost one-third cut in reading-room hours should, for instance, reduce personnel needs, but the library plans to cut only three hundred of its 5,200 jobs this fiscal year.

In a burst of honesty, a spokesman for the library, Nancy Bush, admitted that what they’ve "tried to do is lose as few employees as possible" in hopes that the budget will soon be restored. Boorstin wants cancellation of the Gramm-Rudman cuts plus $10 million more.