In Arlington, Virginia -- my home for the past 17 years -- there is an invisible dividing line between the southern and northern parts of this small county. In the North, where I live, there are many million dollar mega-houses, wonderful public schools, beautifully preserved hiking trails and bike paths. The southern part of the county is chock full of apartment buildings filled with recent immigrants, low income families and students -- but also there are wonderful public schools and hiking and biking paths. The truly upscale restaurants and shops seem to be clustered mostly in the northern part of the community, and there is a sense that it is simply more affluent.
So today my inbox was filled with emails from neighbors who are furious that Arlington County's government is considering reducing the hours of our nearest small library and consolidating two lovely nature centers into one. This is all part of the county's effort to trim the fat, even as it is raises our taxes. These are not the best of times.
And yet, we are blessed with many community-based libraries, and one mega-library, all within a few miles of one another in North Arlington. Would it really be such an inconvenience to cut the hours of one? Couldn't we all just pile our kids into the minivan and head over to one that is open? And is it really necessary to maintain two nature centers within a mile of each other?
These same types of cuts are proposed for South Arlington, where many use public transportation and where there is one lone nature center. I wonder if they too are emailing petitions. I struggle with this because last night I attended a dinner for the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) in my role as a new Board member. I heard stories about families who are worrying about where to sleep at night, not about reduced library hours. I met two university students from California -- former foster youth -- who are finally able to look to the future after the bleakest of childhoods.
So where do I stand on the nature center and library? I'm not happy about it. My daughter attended camp at that nature center and the library books in my living room were borrowed from the very library targeted for reduced hours. But if these cuts don't happen in my leafy, well-manicured backyard, where will they happen? This economy sucks, but some of us may have to shoulder the burden more than others -- just so the others can remain standing.