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it shouldn’t be this way

September 16, 2009

in talent

did you hear? philadelphia libraries are threatened with closure due to budget constraints.

there’s real irony in philadelphia closing its library doors. the country’s first subscription library was franklin’s library company of philadelphia. the free library of philadelphia system was chartered in 1891 and opened its doors to all in 1894. in 2004, the library set forth an ambitious plan for expansion on our lovely benjamin franklin parkway (we’ve yet to see the groundbreaking, set for 2006).

philadelphia central library's airy expansion design

philadelphia central library's planned expansion

we’ve pulled back from the brink before, and i hope we do it again because this is a darn fine time to close libraries. parents are scrambling to keep or find jobs and need a safe place for their kids to stay after school. others rely on free library resources to hone their computer skills, submit a resume, or get job training. far too many kids can’t read or write at grade level, nor imagine a world beyond what they’re living now. their schools don’t have the funds for a library within their walls. and companies can’t find the talent they need.

closing libraries is just another example of a desperate, reactionary short-term management fix (or political gamemanship). like indiscriminately slashing the workforce instead of managing it. eliminating all people investment instead of targeting the investment. avoiding candid, uncomfortable, and possibly controversial conversations instead of facilitating them.

it seems we prefer philosophizing about how to prepare for the 21st century, drive employee engagement, and retain key talent over making the hard choices that’ll actually achieve it.

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