Times are tough — but closing the library? Naaah.

13 May

Larry Spellman has an interesting poll on the state of the library district vote, at his web site. The poll is second frame down, right hand side.

When I voted there, results were running 43% against, 35% for.

Sad, if representative of anything but views of people who like to monitor the local weather.

This is about as close as I get to editorializing, but I want to encourage you to support the library district. I’ve voted for it. Yes, it means I’ll pay some more taxes. And I’ll get something valuable from it. Maybe not as much value as I put in — depends on where the board sets the levy, somewhere south of 70 cents per $1,000, I would think — but “value” is a subjective term. I’m not just talking about the direct dollar benefit. I’m talking about all the intangibles.

A library, first and foremost, is a community center — a node for the exchange of ideas. Not just in books and via web access terminals that open the world to people who can’t afford a computer. Ideas in newspapers, and casual conversations, and meetings, and creation of art. When Bill Clinton came to speak back in 2008, where did he speak? On the steps of the library, and I think it was not by accident. Ideas flow into and out of the library. Liberal and conservative and in between. No matter. All get a fair hearing.

Without a library, where do we go to focus on ideas, face to face? City Hall? The Middle School? Yes, sometimes, but those exchanges are driven by special issues. The library is where every idea has a home. It makes me happy to know that there’s room in this community for at least one place like that, where we all can come out of our silos and meet “the other.”

I buy books. I also check books out at the library. And DVDs. And read newspapers I can’t afford to subscribe to. And regularly reserve and use the public meeting space. And donate books from my own collection, to support the Friends and expansion of the collection. And scan the marvelous bulletin board downstairs, where every event and entrepreneur and cause and lost dog has a place (don’t get me started on bulletin boards; love ’em).

If you’re concerned about the cost, I share your concern. Everything is going up. But think of it this way: Taking on the library now is about damned time. The county has been carrying it for years, on the back of timber receipts. We’ve all been getting a bit of a free pass. Isn’t it time we paid our fair share?

Think about the cost in this way. If you own a house valued at $400,000, you might pay $280 max for the library. Might, I say, because that would be the full levy, and that’s not likely at first. But even if you did, it would amount to $5.38 per week for an entire year.

How much was that last latte you bought? That third glass of beer? That video rental at the store that is closing?

Could you image reallocating that expenditure instead to support a place where everyone can go to become smarter, better, more productive citizens?

When I first moved to Hood River in 2000, the community was voting on a bond measure to expand the library. I gladly voted for it. It would be a dark day for us all to see that investment go dark, because we cared so little about sustaining the hub on the wheel of intellectual freedom.

Vote “yes” for the library. It’s a matter of pride.

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7 Responses to “Times are tough — but closing the library? Naaah.”

  1. Leslie DeSilva May 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Idiocracy!

  2. Jeff Nicol May 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    re: Library Vote – I. Am. So. Bummed.

  3. Chris May 19, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    well apparently the results are in, we suck and we are disorganized. maybe someday we will not suck and we will get more organized?

    • stuwatson May 20, 2010 at 1:37 am #

      Yes, the results suck, and the numbers are disorganized — most of the votes should have been “for” the libary — but I think the Save Our Library group was extremely organized, and did as much as humanly possible to push their message out there. Sad and simple fact, majority (of those who voted) just don’t value the library enough to pay for it. Plan B, anyone?

      • Chris May 20, 2010 at 2:59 am #

        i was using the term we to describe all of us, the yeses, the nos and the non voters. no one in particular, all of us. the fact that we enlarged and renovated only a few years ago, and now we are abandoning our library shows a definite lack of orgainzation on our (all of us, top to bottom) part. i think everyone who understood what we were voting for voted yes, so a majority of our voters did not know what they were voting for, kind of a scary thought?

      • stuwatson May 20, 2010 at 3:18 am #

        Thanks, Chris. Claro and correcto, IMHOP. Scary, indeed. Crazy to be paying still for a building that will now go dark.

  4. Terri May 19, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    WTF? I am absolutely gutted by this vote. I had no idea that people really could do this. Really.

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