Tuesday is Election Day throughout the United States, and while we won’t be electing a new president this time, there are still a number of important reasons to go out and vote.
Now why are you seeing this on a library blog? The answer is simple, dear reader…in a number of states and municipalities, there are referendums on the ballot that directly affect public libraries. Without the support of taxpayers, libraries and more importantly, library services and budgets will continue to be cut.
No matter what the naysayers say, libraries still matter. If you need ammunition to prove the point, look no further than these excellent essays found (ironically) on the internet which some argue has killed the point of the public library. Nay nay, as the late comedian John Pinette might have said.
Jonathan Zitrain, says in his essay, that libraries “…provide unfettered access to knowledge, and link authors and readers in new ways” Nearly two years ago, a Forbes magazine contributor offered this essay which dealt with the need for public libraries not just as community centers, which they are increasingly becoming, but also offered some advice on how libraries and publishers could come to some agreement over what has long been a difficult relationship.
Which brings us, of course, to the inevitable discussion of public library budgets. Referendums exists in at least six states directly affecting libraries and library budgets. In the interest of civic mindedness, here’s a partial listing culled from articles I found on different library referendums:
In Ohio, there are several referendums on ballots, you can learn more about them here and here. In South Carolina, Charleston County has a big referendum that, if passed, would see a huge increase in library services. You can read more about it here. In Maine, at least two municipalities have referendums on the ballot. Read more about them here. In Pennsylvania, voters are also being asked to approve more funding for libraries. Read about it here. Finally, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, voters are being asked to consider a bond that would aid libraries. Read all about it here.
This listing of referendums is not exhaustive, rather it is a quick look at the issue and a plea to our readers to fully read and consider the ballots in front of them when you go to vote on Tuesday. Often, library referendum supporters do not have the money or political clout to pay for expensive public campaigns on television and radio, or make robocalls asking for support…and really, who wants more of that anyway? Not me.
So really, today’s blog is all about reading your ballot fully and remembering that some bond and tax increases do help the community as a whole…because that’s what libraries do. The internet, as fabulous as it is, can never replace the community library where real people exist who live and breathe in your neighborhoods and who have librarians who understand the unique needs of the members of your community and who make choices with their limited budgets to buy the books and magazine subscriptions they know people in your community will need and enjoy.
Public libraries today provide a number of resources: access to the internet to those who might not have it, books (of course) and magazines, many of which are special interest and not necessarily cost effective as personal subscriptions. Public libraries provide a vital resource in allowing access to the community for all these things and more. Yes, the internet is a vast landscape of information…but public libraries also have a secret weapon to help one navigate all this information: internets, books, magazines, you name it. What is that secret weapon…well, it’s really a “who” and that who is the public librarian.
Vote on Tuesday. Read the whole ballot. Support your public library because it supports you.