It is simply not true, as the editorial of Sept. 30 asserts, that a library with limited help beats no library at all. A study hall perhaps, but not a library. It is simply not true, as you imply, that librarians don't appreciate the importance of libraries. Of course they do. Libraries are not only important but vital to the well-being of our children. But librarians much more appreciate the value of adequately funded and staffed libraries.
A library is more than a room "with adequate adult supervision." It is a vital learning place where students are guided and advised, where they learn to cope with the world and the information age, where they begin to develop learning processes that will serve them for the rest of their lives. It is a place where librarians learn from their students and then apply their education and training to meet students' specific informational, research and recreational needs. In the long run, misguided advice and service from well-meaning volunteers may be worse than none at all.
A dangerous trend is afoot, especially in the public sector: Trained people are being fired to save a few bucks with the idea that the gaps can be filled with volunteers and untrained staff.
However, how would News' reporters react to the announcement that they are being fired, but everything will be OK since volunteers will be collecting and reporting the news? How would editorial writers react if they discovered that the person drawing blood or injecting an IV is a volunteer, or if the airlines were using fill-in pilots to save money?
You could use the simplistic argument that newspapers, airlines, hospitals, colleges or courtrooms run by volunteers are better than none at all, but I dread the long-term consequences of such a belief. Granted, there are no immediate life-and-death consequences of having volunteers run a library, but down the road we will pay for such shortsighted economics and simplistic solutions as advocated in your editorial.
Professor and Assistant Dean
School of Information & Library Studies
Neil Yerkey University at Buffalo