In a sense, local libraries have long been used to working together.
Inter-library lending programs in which a patron of one library may arrange to borrow a book from a neighboring library are nothing new. The CLEVNET system, which electronically ties together a string of libraries across northeast Ohio, including many in this area, is simply a large expression of that idea.
So it's heartening, but not surprising, that local librarians are meeting to see what can be done to offer the services library patrons have come to expect, even as Gov. Ted Strickland contemplates budget cuts that some librarians say will result in a net 50 percent cut in their state funds.
That the budget needs to be cut cannot be argued. That there are state programs that offer more immediate, and immediately critical, benefits also cannot be argued.
However, this editorial board has argued, and will continue to argue, that libraries are an important component of the intellectual and cultural life of a community -- the phrase "the people's university" came into being late in the 19th century.
But as many of the resources libraries offer became available to us in our own homes, libraries found themselves doing more and more to make themselves relevant -- reading programs to movie and music loans, even loans of works of art in some of the more affluent libraries. Ironically, some of the things libraries have been doing to make themselves relevant are now cited as evidence of frivolity by those who argue libraries should take their turn on the chopping block.
The numbers will win this argument, and we fear the libraries will have to join everyone else in making do with still less.
But we will still argue that a library is still part of a community's identity, and a vital resource. People looking for jobs make use of the library's job-search literature and free Internet access, and in a myriad other ways take advantage of resources many can use, but might not be able to buy for themselves.
Cooperation such as local librarians are trying to develop will, we hope, maintain each library's identity in its community while being able to offer resources in a cost-effective but still helpful manner.
As we said, such cooperation is nothing new among local libraries. It will simply have to grow stronger.
And as we all look for ways to work leaner and meaner, we would hope to see this continue even if the hard times go away.