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THE BLACK HOLE BUDGET

By Rebecca Sherman |

THE CITY When cily hall slashed the Dallas Public Library’s budget six years ago, RON BOYD never imagined things would get this bad.

“We’ve had to cut back before, ” says Boyd, assistant manager of the Central Dallas Public Library’s Humanities division. “But I’ve never seen them cut us so long or so deep. “

Most departments, already at bare bones, are canceling dozens of long-standing subscriptions. Business and Technology, for instance, must cancel a mind-boggling $79, 000 worth of subscriptions before it can buy a single book.

The library’s enormously popular science fiction collection has been dealt a double whammy. “It’s a high-loss area anyway, ” says Boyd. “Most science fiction comes out in paperback with brittle pages that crumble and bindings that break. ” The life span of such high-circulation books-in ideal conditions-is only a couple of years.

In better times, the library could replace lost or disintegrating books. There was even an in-house bindery. “There is no money for that now, ” Boyd says. “When a book’s binding breaks now, it’s gone. “

Unless the library gets more funds to pay for preservation, much of the science fiction collection could be lost forever.

That’s a heartbreaking realization for Boyd, who nurtured the library’s collection from a few shelves in 1974 to more than 18, 000 diverse works. And it’s a nifty collection, including a complete set (1926-91) of Amazing Stories-those legendary sci-fi comic books with lurid drawings of monsters chasing half-clad maidens-as well as British sci-fi grandmaster BRIAN ALDISS’s personal library, boasting 3, 150 items. There are also several first editions, including a copy of FRANK HERBERT’s Dune, valued at $1, 200.

Dallas library patrons may soon have to buy for themselves the books and magazines once available through the library for free. “It’ll be too bad, ” says Humanities manager FRANCES BELL, “if the only people who can get information are the ones who can afford to pay for it. “