It's no secret that my beloved state of Wisconsin has been going through some tumultous times. As a public service worker, since January, when we had about five minutes to enjoy our Green Bay Packers Super Bowl victory before the sky fell, it has been one long series of ups and downs. In order to balance the state budget, both unionized and non-unionized public seector workers have to pay higher percentages of retirement and health benefits. Beyond that, folks who struggle financially are looking at many difficult cuts in social services, medicaid and other services that keep them afloat. We are living through - right here and right now - the decline of the middle class and increasing numbers in our community falling into poverty.
Most painful during this process has been the tone of much of the discussion when referring to my public service colleagues. Teachers, librarians, union folks, nurses, and any government workers whose wages are paid through use of our shared taxes have been denigrated, derided and disrepected by people in office (and, in a trickle down effect, by many community members) in a way that has permeated the tone of discourse. Never in my career have I heard that kind of disregard for our "community helpers".
It motivated me to write and call and advocate for libraries in the budget process. It motivated me to march at our capitol. It motivated me to join my colleagues and attend my first state Library Legislative Day. We spoke frankly with our then-Assembly rep (and now Senator - above) about our frustration; about the importance of libraries and public schools and a maintained infrastructure; about the hard work of our city, county and state colleagues; about the need to change the dialogue so we all can work together for the public good. And she heard us.
So even though we face a tough upcoming year with our library budget, hours and staff being cut, seeing my senator in the library gives me hope and makes me feel like someone is listening. We just need to keep talking.