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What a bad decision looks like

Cash-strapped public officials in Miami, Fla., are about to gut their public library system.

They plan to close 22 of 49 libraries and fire 250 staffers.

This will effectively keep millions of people from having access to vital information, including the Web.

The result will not only be immediate, but also long-term.

Lack of money is the problem as Miami continues to deal with the 2008 meltdown and its aftermath, and it appears that all public services, not just libraries, will be affected.

It is hard to argue that if and when cuts are made in a fair and equitable way libraries should be exempted from the axe. Are they more vital that firefighters' or police services?

Librarians across the country are making that argument, though, including Rebecca T. Miller, editor of Library Journal. When officials fold libraries, she writes in the August issue, "They are cutting a lifelong education booster. They are cutting an economic driver. They are cutting a safety net from a culture with all too few safety nets."

True enough. But I'm wondering what the alternative might be.

I do believe libraries are vital to communities. But, I'm not prepared to make the case that libraries should be open if fire and police services are shut down.

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