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DEAR ABBY: Allow me to offer kudos to "Joe in Pennsylvania" (Dec. 31), who wrote that he prefers wearing skirts at home, on errands and at church. I grew up in southwestern Asia where skirts, sarongs and robes are common daily apparel for men. I have been somewhat surprised by the disapproving looks and downright hostility I have encountered in this country any time I have chosen to leave my home wearing anything other than pants.

I look forward to a day when more people in the USA recognize that pants are a relatively new phenomenon in the world. Men who prefer skirts as a mode of dress are not all weirdos or terrorists.

So, congratulations to Joe, who has not only the fortitude to wear what he pleases, but also to his family members, community and church members for respecting that choice. -- KARL, KILT SUPPORTER IN FLORIDA

DEAR KARL: I heard from men and women across the United States and beyond who wrote supporting Joe in his decision to wear skirts. Many of them suggested he contact Utilikilts, a company based in Seattle, which manufactures a line of kilts for the modern man. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: To Joe's jackass relatives who start rumors about him because he wears skirts for comfort, I have one word for him: "Utilikilt." They are made in all sorts of different styles and fabrics -- from work kilts to fancy dress kilts -- and they are male-specific. Plus he can then use my favorite kilt joke: "You know why they're called 'kilts'? Because if ye call 'em 'skirts,' ye'll be kilt." -- ANN FROM KANSAS CITY, MO.

DEAR ABBY: Three cheers to Joe and to you for your answer regarding his wearing skirts. While skirts may not be appropriate for riding a horse or motorcycle riding, they make perfect sense as casual attire, potentially even business attire.

I find it interesting that women have won the "right" to wear pants at will, and their sexuality is not questioned. However, when a man dons a skirt, his masculinity falls under suspicion, unless he's wearing a kilt and is involved in macho activities. Then the question most asked becomes, "What are you wearing under that?" My reply to that question is, "Do you ask that of women wearing skirts?" -- RAY IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR ABBY: I had a good laugh after reading the letter from Joe. My husband dresses exclusively in kilts throughout the summer, much of the winter and whenever he works for my designing business. If someone calls his kilt a skirt, he smiles and tells them, "It's only a skirt if I'm wearing pumps with it." A good chuckle generally diffuses any discomfort of bystanders.

Good luck, Joe. I hope you continue to set fashion rather than to follow it. -- A KILTER'S WIFE

DEAR ABBY: Someone should send Joe's family to American Samoa and see if they will still snicker at the men. We grow NFL linebackers here, and they all wear "skirts." The Samoan lavalava is a wraparound "skirt" worn by Polynesian men and hardly a girlish trend. -- AMUSED IN SAMOA

DEAR ABBY: My husband is a "skirt" wearer. They are called kilts. We actually receive more comments at church when he doesn't wear one and opts for pants instead.

A word of warning to the ladies, as a co-worker of my husband's has found out: Do NOT do a "kilt check." It is considered sexual harassment. -- JENNY FROM TEXAS


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Mar. 11th, 2009

Museum reveals engraving hidden in Lincoln watch

This photo provided by the National Museum of American History shows words engraved inside...

Wed Mar 11, 12:18 AM EDT

For nearly 150 years, a story has circulated about a hidden Civil War message engraved inside Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch. On Tuesday, museum curators confirmed it was true. A watchmaker used tiny tools to carefully pry open the antique watch at the National Museum of American History, and a descendant of the engraver read aloud the message from a metal plate underneath the watch face.

"Jonathan Dillon April 13 - 1861," part of the inscription reads, "Fort Sumpter (sic) was attacked by the rebels on the above date." Another part reads, "Thank God we have a government."

The words were etched in tiny cursive handwriting and filled the the space between tiny screws and gears that jutted through the metal plate. A magnifying glass was required to read them.

Jonathan Dillon, then a watchmaker on Pennsylvania Avenue, had Lincoln's watch in his hands when he heard the first shots of the Civil War had been fired in South Carolina. The Irish immigrant later recalled being the only Union sympathizer working at the shop in a divided Washington.

Dillon's story was passed down among his family and friends, eventually reaching a New York Times reporter. In a 1906 article in the paper, an 84-year-old Dillon said no one, including Lincoln, ever saw the inscription as far as he knew.

Dillon had a fuzzy recollection of what he had engraved. He told the newspaper he had written: "The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a president who at least will try."

For years the story went unconfirmed.

The watchmaker's great-great grandson, Doug Stiles, first heard the tale of the engraving from his great uncle decades ago. He said the story had reached extended family as far away as Ireland.

A few months ago, he used Google to find the New York Times story, and last month he passed the information along to Smithsonian curators, who knew nothing about the engraving.

On Tuesday, watchmaker George Thomas, who volunteers at the museum, spent several minutes carefully opening the watch as an audience of reporters and museum workers watched on a video monitor.

"The moment of truth has come. Is there or is there not an inscription?" Thomas said, teasing the audience, which gasped when he confirmed it was there. He called Stiles up to read his ancestor's words, drawing smiles and a few sighs of relief.

"Like Pearl Harbor or 9/11, this was the reaction he had (to the Civil War,)" Stiles said of the inscription.

Later, Stiles said he felt closer to the 16th president.

"My gosh, that was Lincoln's watch," he said, "and my ancestor put graffiti on it!"

Lincoln's family kept the watch until it was donated to the museum in 1958. It was Lincoln's everyday pocket watch, one of the president's only valuable possessions he brought with him to the White House from Springfield, Ill., said Harry Rubenstein, curator of the museum's politics and reform division.

"I think it just captures a bit of history that can transform you to another time and place," he said. "It captures the excitement, the hope of a watchmaker in Washington."

The watch will go back on display at the museum by Wednesday as part of the exhibit, "Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life." It will have a new label to tell Dillon's story and a photo of the inscription.


On the Net:

National Museum of American History:

Mar. 11th, 2009

Ancient golden jewelry found in Egyptian tomb

CAIRO – Egyptian officials says archaeologists have found ancient golden jewelry in a pharaonic-era tomb that belonged to a senior official under Egypt's most powerful queen. The Supreme Council of Antiquities says five golden earrings and two rings were found in the tomb of Gahouti, the head of the treasury under Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt 3,500 years ago.

Tuesday's statement says the tomb was located on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor, a southern Egyptian city famous for its Valley of the Kings and other ruins from pharaonic times.

The tomb had been looted, and its gates were engraved with text from the "Book of the Dead," which Egyptians believed would be needed in the afterlife.


Some of you don't know this so I am going to tell you....

If/when I become annoying...which does happen*, please let me know.  I can't correct a problem, if I don't know it exists. 

I will not get upset, I want to know.

*I get very enthusiastic about things**...typical geek/nerd...and forget that others don't share my enthusiasms.

** "Things" is used here as a very general term, which includes, but is not limited to: Books, food, places, people, ideas, movies, plays, books....

Through a glass darkly....

This has been running through my brain, so I thought if I share it would go away and let something else take over.

     When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

     For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I wanted this specific translation simply for the phrase "Through a glass, darkly"

Only in New Jersey

NJ troopers to go car-fishing with help of robots

HACKENSACK, N.J. – New Jersey State Police plan to go fishing next month — car fishing.

Environmentalists say dozens of cars and trucks have been shoved into the lower Hackensack River over the years, polluting the northern New Jersey waterway with gasoline, oil and antifreeze.

Members of the Hackensack Riverkeeper organization have been working with police to locate the submerged vehicles.

State police scanned the river bottom with sonar devices this week to pinpoint the cars' exact locations. Next month, divers and underwater robots will attach air bags to lift them to the surface so they can be hauled off.

Authorities hope to identify owners and prosecute them for abandoning their vehicles.


Information from: The Record of Bergen County,

Mar. 6th, 2009

Former Monkees member says he has cancer

MANSFIELD, Conn. – Peter Tork, a former member of the 1960s pop group the Monkees, says he has a rare form of head and neck cancer, but the prognosis is good.

The 67-year-old Tork had surgery Wednesday in New York. His spokeswoman says he is doing well and will begin radiation treatment after a short recovery period.

He announced on his Web site Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma on the lower region of his tongue. He says it's an uncommon but slow-growing type of cancer, and it hasn't spread beyond the initial site.

From 1966 to 1968, the Monkees had a popular TV show and three No. 1 hits, "Last Train To Clarksville," "I'm A Believer" and "Daydream Believer."

Pa. state library faces budget cut

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania state library, founded by Benjamin Franklin 263 years ago, has survived two wars and a catastrophic fire.

Now, library advocates fear, its latest threat may be its most dire.

In the face of a multibillion-dollar deficit, Gov. Rendell wants to halve the state library budget - from $4.8 million to $2.3 million - which could all but wipe out the 56-person staff.

"They're obviously going to be crippled by this," said Glenn Miller, executive director of the Pennsylvania Library Association.

A Rendell spokesman said that the administration was committed to libraries and that it kept its promise to restore funding for the hundreds of local libraries that had a 50 percent reduction in 2003.

"Our support for libraries over the course of administration is a matter of public record," Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo said. "Our proposal for this year is simply a matter of fiscal reality."

Under one scenario, the library could lose a lot more than half its staff positions - 51 of 56, in fact - prompting some to ask how the library could remain open.

"I can't imagine how they would function as a library with five people," said Elliot Shelkrot, the former head of the Free Library of Philadelphia who is now interim library director at the William Jeanes Memorial Library in Lafayette Hill.

Library commissioner M. Clare Zales said she was scrambling to find other ways to reduce costs - such as limiting hours - and preserve more jobs.

"It's a substantial cut," Zales said. "We will keep the lights on, but we may not be able to maintain the current schedule of hours." The library is open 48.5 hours a week, Monday through Saturday.

She also said the library would not be able to respond as quickly to interlibrary loans and information requests.

The state library, one of four major research institutions statewide (the Free Library of Philadelphia serves the southeast), is the central repository for all published material related to state government.

Housed behind its majestic art deco walls are the state law and education libraries, one of the nation's largest newspaper collections, as well as extensive Pennsylvania Dutch history and other genealogy resources - 1.6 million items in all.

In the deep recesses below the main library floor is the heavily fortified rare-book collection, which contains nearly the entire original Benjamin Franklin "Assembly Collection" (420 books), including leatherbound volumes of the statutes of England and the oversize Assembly Bible used for swearing-in ceremonies.

It also houses books from Franklin's press, including Poor Richard's Almanac, as well as Colonial-era newspapers and historic maps.

Since the library was established in December 1745, the collection has survived numerous threats. The first was in 1777, when the British were poised to occupy Philadelphia and the collection was spirited away to Lancaster for safekeeping.

In 1863, as Confederate troops approached Harrisburg, the 23,000-volume collection was hastily packed onto a freight train and moved back to Philadelphia.

Then, in 1897, a huge fire that destroyed the state Capitol left the neighboring building, and the library collection, untouched.

Keeping a library with 25 miles of shelves and demand from researchers around the globe is labor-intensive. There is the daily flow of books, newspapers. and other materials to contend with, restocking shelves, and answering the myriad requests and questions - 20,000 last year - that bombard staff daily.

"It takes a lot of people to answer a lot of questions," said Judy Townsend, the division chief for public services. "We get the tough ones. Google gets the easy ones."

The state library cut comes as Rendell is proposing trimming by 5 percent funding for 624 local libraries in order to save $2 million.

The library association's Miller said the cuts hamstring libraries when they are undergoing a surge in popularity tied to the economy. More people who can no longer afford Internet services or book purchases are turning to libraries, and unemployed workers are using library computers to type resumes and hunt for jobs, Miller said.

"Librarians are serving people who are out of work at the time they need libraries the most," he said.

Glen Weber of Mechanicsburg was the lone researcher in the genealogy room at the state library one morning last week. He said he had been collecting information on his family history for 20 years and preferred using the original source material rather than reading what's available online.

"I don't trust anything from the Web," he said.

Asked what he would do if the library were to roll back its hours, Weber said, "I'll just have to go somewhere else."


Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or


Find this article at:

Good week for Egyptian Archaeology

Egyptian noblewoman's 3,000 year-old tomb revealed

CAIRO (AFP) – Japanese archaeologists have unearthed an Egyptian noblewoman's 3,000 year-old tomb in the necropolis of Saqqara south of Cairo, the antiquities department said on Tuesday.

The Japanese team believes the tomb belongs to Isisnofret, a granddaughter of Ramses II, the famed 19th Dynasty pharaoh who reigned over Egypt for about 68 years from 1304 to 1237 BC, and who is said to have lived to the age of 90.

The tomb contained a broken limestone sarcophagus bearing the name of Isisnofret and the title "noble woman", three mummies and fragments of funerary objects, the department said in a statement.

Isisnofret's last resting place is in an area of Saqqara where a team from Waseda University were excavating the tomb of Prince Khaemwaset, a son of Ramses II, it quoted Japanese team leader Sakuji Yoshimura as saying.

"Prince Khaemwaset had a daughter named Isisnofret (and) because of the proximity of the newly discovered tomb to that of the prince, it is possible that the owner of the sarcophagus is the daughter of Khaemwaset," he said.

However, Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told AFP he believes the tomb dates from the 18th dynasty instead of the 19th, because of the style of construction.

Hawass also dismissed the "similarities in the names" saying that there were many women called Isisnofret in ancient Egypt.

Mar. 2nd, 2009

I had been sending these articles to a friend privately, but I figured that I would share with everyone.

Archaeologists rediscover lost Egyptian tomb

CAIRO (Reuters) – Belgian archaeologists have rediscovered an ancient Egyptian tomb that had been lost for decades under sand, Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni said on Sunday.

In 1880 Swedish Egyptologist Karl Piehl uncovered the tomb of Amenhotep, the deputy seal-bearer of the Pharaoh King Tuthmosis III, in the city of Luxor, about 600 km (375 miles) to the south of the capital Cairo.

"It later disappeared under the sand and archaeologists kept looking for it to no avail until it was found by the Belgian expedition," a statement from the Supreme Council of Antiquities quoted Hosni as saying.

Tuthmosis III of the 18th Dynasty ruled Egypt between 1504-1452 BC. Egypt's chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass said the tomb consists of an enclosure and a large hall divided into two parts by six columns. Part of the northern side of the hall had been destroyed a long time ago, he added.

Laurent Bavay, the head of the Belgian team, said most of the inscriptions on the walls of the tomb were damaged, a sign that the place had probably been robbed in the early 19th century, the statement quoted him as saying.

(Writing by Alaa Shahine; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Feb. 27th, 2009

13,000-year-old tools unearthed at Colorado home

DENVER – Landscapers were digging a hole for a fish pond in the front yard of a Boulder home last May when they heard a "chink" that didn't sound right. Just some lost tools. Some 13,000-year-old lost tools. They had stumbled onto a cache of more than 83 ancient tools buried by the Clovis people — ice age hunter-gatherers who remain a puzzle to anthropologists.

The home's owner, Patrick Mahaffy, thought they were only a century or two old before contacting researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

"My jaw just dropped," said CU anthropologist Douglas Bamforth, who is leading a study of the find. "Boulder is a densely populated area. And in the midst of all that to find this cache."

The cache is one of only a handful of Clovis-age artifacts uncovered in North America, said Bamforth.

The tools reveal an unexpected level of sophistication, Bamforth said, describing the design as "unnecessarily complicated," artistic and utilitarian at the same time.

What researchers found on the tools also was significant. Biochemical analysis of blood and other protein residue revealed the tools were used to butcher camels, horses, sheep and bears. That proves that the Clovis people ate more than just woolly mammoth meat for dinner, something scientists were unable to confirm before.

"A window opens up into this incredibly remote way of life that we normally can't see much of," Bamforth said.

The cache was buried 18 inches deep and was packed into a hole the size of a large shoe box. The tools were most likely wrapped in a skin that deteriorated over time, Mahaffy said.

"The kind of stone that's present — the kind that flakes to a good sharp edge — isn't widely available in this part of Colorado. It looks like they were storing material because they knew they would need it later," said Bamforth.

Bamforth believes the tools had been untouched since the owners placed them there for storage.

Mahaffy's Clovis cache is one of only two that have been analyzed for protein residue from ice age animals, Bamforth said. Mahaffy paid for the analysis by California State University in Bakersfield.

A biotech entrepreneur, Mahaffy is familiar with the process. He is the former president and chief executive officer of Boulder-based Pharmion Corp., acquired by Celgene Corp. for nearly $3 billion in 2007.

Mahaffy wants to donate most of the tools to a museum but plans to rebury a few of them in his yard.

"These tools have been associated with these people and this land for 13,000 years," he said. "I would like some of these tools to stay where they belong."

Feb. 26th, 2009

Caffeine May Offer Some Skin Cancer Protection

THURSDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Past studies have suggested that caffeine might offer some protection from skin cancer, and new research may explain why.


"We have found what we believe to be the mechanism by which caffeine is associated with decreased skin cancer," said lead researcher Dr. Paul Nghiem, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Washington in Seattle.


For the study, Nghiem's team looked at caffeine's effect on human skin cells in a laboratory that had been exposed to ultraviolet radiation. They found that in cells damaged by UV rays, caffeine interrupted a protein called ATR-Chk1, causing the damaged cells to self-destruct.


"Caffeine has no effect on undamaged cells," Nghiem said.


ATR is essential to damaged cells that are growing rapidly, Nghiem said, and caffeine specifically targets damaged cells that can become cancerous. "Caffeine more than doubles the number of damaged cells that will die normally after a given dose of UV," he said.


"This is a biological mechanism that explains what we have been seeing for many years from the oral intake of caffeine," he added.


The findings were published online Feb. 26 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.


But, Nghiem added, people shouldn't increase the amount of coffee or tea they drink to prevent skin cancer. "You are talking a lot of cups for a lot of years for a relatively small effect," he said. "But if you like it, it's another reason to drink it."


Nghiem has also been experimenting with applying caffeine directly to the skin. "It suppresses skin cancer development by as much as 72 percent in mice, and human studies are moving ahead slowly," he said.


It's possible that topical caffeine preparations might one day be used to help prevent skin cancer, Nghiem said. "Caffeine is both a sunscreen and it deletes damaged cells," he said. "It may well make sense to put it into a sunscreen preparation."


Dr. Robin Ashinoff, a dermatologist and clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University's Langone Medical Center, thinks these findings need to be verified before they can have any clinical application.


"This study tells me that caffeine may be a useful ingredient topically to remove ultraviolet-genetically damaged cells from reproducing," Ashinoff said. "This may help prevent the development of skin cancer."


"It is interesting that caffeine, which is thought to have a negative connotation, has already been shown to be associated with lower incidences of non-melanoma skin cancers in several epidemiological studies," she added.


Dr. Albert Lefkovits, a spokesman for the Skin Cancer Foundation and an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, doesn't think it's been proven that caffeine reduces the risk of skin cancer.


"While this is an interesting concept that has been explored before, it will take years of extensive testing to determine whether this will be a worthwhile prevention method," Lefkovits said.


"And, the study doesn't discuss how much caffeine would be needed for any real benefit," he said. "For instance, many people drink large amounts of caffeine on a daily basis and still get skin cancer. Protecting yourself from the sun is currently the only proven way to prevent skin cancer."


More information


To learn more about skin cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

Feb. 17th, 2009

No joy in this cooking — recipes can make you fat

CONCORD, N.H. – Eating at home can save you some cash, but beware the calorie cost.

Though restaurants often take the blame for portion distortion — the trend of serving up ever larger helpings — cookbook recipes have done some Supersizing of their own, a study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine found.

"There's so much attention that's been given to away-from-home eating and so much attention that's been focused on restaurants and the packaged food industry, it makes me wonder whether it's actually deflecting attention from the one place where we can make the most immediate change," says Cornell University marketing professor Brian Wansink, who directed the study.

The study, which looked at how classic recipes have changed during the past 70 years, found a nearly 40 percent increase in calories per serving for nearly every recipe reviewed, about an extra 77 calories.

The study identified the trend in numerous cookbooks, but it focused on American kitchen icon "Joy of Cooking," first published during the '30s and regularly updated with new editions since then, most recently in 2006.

Those editions gave researchers a continuity of recipes from which to draw their data, Wansink says.

Of the 18 recipes published in all seven editions, 17 increased in calories per serving. That can be attributed partly to a jump in total calories per recipe (about 567 calories), but also to larger portion sizes.

Only the chili con carne recipe remained unchanged through the years. The chicken gumbo, however, went from making 14 servings at 228 calories each in the 1936 edition, to making 10 servings at 576 calories each in the 2006 version.

Calls to Scribner, publisher of "Joy of Cooking," were not immediately returned.

Most excess calories in the American diet still come from food eaten outside the home, says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. But she says the study is yet another illustration of how accustomed people are to eating ever increasing quantities of food.

And changes in "Joy of Cooking" have been going on for a while. Increases in overall calories per recipe have been gradual, but portion sizes tended to jump, first during the '40s, again during the '60s, and with the largest jump in the 2006 edition.

The first significant signs of restaurant portion inflation didn't show up until the late '70s, says Wansink.

Lisa Young, an adjunct nutrition professor at New York University, had similar findings in a 2002 study that compared the book's brownie recipe from the '60s and '70s editions to the recipe from the 1997 edition.

"Same recipe. Same pan. But in the '60s and '70s it yielded 30 brownies," she says. "In the 1997 edition it yielded 15."

She also was able to trace the trend to other recipe sources. For example, a popular chocolate chip cookie recipe that decades before produced 100 cookies, made only 60 during the '80s, though no ingredients had changed.

Wansink says he is more concerned by the increase in overall calories per recipe — what experts call caloric density — than in the portion size increases, which is a more easily recognized phenomenon.

"That (calorie increases) is more insidious because that's the sort if thing the average person wouldn't notice, wouldn't even think would have happened over the years," says Wansink, author of "Mindless Eating," an examination of why people overeat.

Much of the change can be attributed to money. Relative to household income, food is cheaper than during the '30s. So recipes once padded with less expensive (and lower calorie) ingredients like beans, now often have more meat, Wansink says.

The scope of Wansink's study is limited. It measures the recipes only as written, not as eaten. Because people may eat more or less than the suggested serving, estimating the effect on the typical diet is challenging.

But a 40 percent increase is significant. A change of even 10 percent can affect weight, especially when dealing with high calorie foods, says Wansink. His solution? Don't let a full portion get anywhere near your plate.

"It's not enough to just be aware," Wansink says of the recipes once intended to serve nearly twice as many people are they do today. "Put half of it away as soon as it's cooked."


On the Net:

Annals of Internal Medicine:


Happy Birthday

To the wonderful, glorious, and incredibly beautiful

K.T. Pinto!

May this be the best year yet...

Feb. 15th, 2009

Yesterday portiastluke posted the link to this wonderful site "Suicide:Read this first"  I asked Portia, and she believes that it should be spread around. 

octoberland it made me think of you post.

Feb. 14th, 2009

I was looking through the shelf of cookbooks, tracking down some of the recipes that I want to share, when I found this great book.  I bought this ages ago, because I liked that idea of being able to bake for just one or two people, without having lots of leftovers.

Small-Batch Baking: When Just Enough for 1 or 2 -- Is Just Enough! by Debby Maygans Nakos, Workman Publishing, 2004.

It is so cool to bake little cakes in cans, and pies in large muffin tins...


This is my job, folks....

Most State Library jobs could be history

Rendell's proposal would cut 50 of 57 positions, force 'rethinking' of role
Friday, February 13, 2009
Of The Patriot-News

The State Library could lose nearly all of its staff under Gov. Ed Rendell's proposed budget for 2009-10, and the proposed cuts are startling researchers who rely on the library.

Fifty of the library's 57 positions would be eliminated, with one person transferred elsewhere in the state Department of Education, which oversees the library.

That would leave a staff of six, presumably to maintain public access to the facility, which the administration has indicated it wants to try to keep open.

Rendell's spending plan would slash the library's budget in half, from $4.8 million this year to $2.4 million for the budget year starting July 1.

"The tough times we're in now mean we will need to fundamentally rethink the role of the State Library," said Mike Race, a Department of Education spokesman. "That said, there clearly are assets and services we want to preserve, including hours of operation in which the library is open to public use. [But] until a budget is finalized, we can't speculate on exactly how services might be impacted."

The State Library houses an extensive general and legal reference collection and is perhaps the state's leading repository of Pennsylvania and U.S. government reports, from election results to postings of salaries of all state employees.

It also contains a state-of-the-art rare-books room that preserves a collection of books and newspapers started by Benjamin Franklin.

Supporters of the library said it plays an important role during a recession as people without computers flood in to apply for jobs online. At lunchtime Thursday, the banks of public computer terminals were nearly full.

Like proposed shutdowns of the Scotland School for Veterans' Children in Franklin County or the Governor's Schools summer enrichment programs, this proposed deep cut is causing deep concern with devotees.

Joyce Barnhart, an amateur genealogist from East Pennsboro Twp., said the State Library can't be beaten for its breadth of research material and access to it.

She said most local historical societies run closed stacks, meaning the user needs to know exactly what he or she wants to request. The State Library, by contrast, lets users browse open stacks in its genealogy room.

"That way, even when I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for, I'll find something that can help me get started," Barnhart said.

Another boon to researchers is the library's collection of state newspapers -- from today's issues to those that haven't published for 100 years.

"Just about anything in the state, I can find there," said Kathy Fisher, another genealogy hobbyist from Middle Paxton Twp.

State records show that visitors to the ornate library in The Forum accessed 215,000 items last year.

Rendell has said he is unhappy about many of his hundreds of proposed budget cuts and that he hopes for restorations of many funding lines when better times return. But he said he is focused on preserving public safety, social services and education.

The administration is grappling with a projected budget deficit of $2.3 billion by the end of the current fiscal year. The state has drawn less revenue as consumers have curbed spending and companies have cut jobs.

Workers at the library would not comment about their situation Thursday, saying they were advised by their supervisors to refer all questions to the Education Department press office.

State Library advocates have vowed a fight.

Glenn Miller, director of the Pennsylvania Library Association, said that even if the State Library keeps reduced public hours, the spending cut would weaken its role as one of four statewide resource libraries.

Those centers -- including libraries in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and State College -- are charged with building and sharing specialized collections that can't be replicated in local public libraries.

"It clearly is an important jewel in Pennsylvania's library system," Miller said.


©2009 Patriot-News
© 2009 All Rights Reserved.