Friday Report: We need libraries, and they need us
September 6, 2013
I ducked out on my graduation ceremony from Arizona State University to head for Colorado, destination: Hideaway Park.
I sort of expected my diploma to follow me in the mail, but months later, I was living and working in that warren of snow bunnies called a ski lodge, giving little thought to an inconsequential college degree.
Until one day I looked at the bare wall in my Spartan quarters and realized it needed an adornment and after all those agonizing trips to the Dean of Students to explain away an abysmal GPA, I wanted that diploma, there, on that wall. Where was it? Obviously some clerical oversight.
And, indeed it was, although unfortunately, it was mine. I had not taken the library seriously about an $11 overdue book fine.
On the phone with the ASU registrar's office, I decided to go with the truth. I overlooked the payment because I'd been busy, "preparing my grandfather's substantial endowment to the library. If you mailed my diploma today," I told them, "there's an excellent chance my grandfather's huge check will cross in the mail." In the end, I got my diploma and the library got their 11 bucks, both sides happy at the even trade
Libraries are among the earliest forms of human organization. About 3,100 years ago, the Babylonians had catalogs of clay tablets that described epic battles and medical procedures, the one following closely upon the heels of the other. Throughout history, libraries have defined cultures and civilizations and even more so today do libraries empower individuals by protecting their right to know and preserving access to that knowledge.
The internet has changed how people look for information and e-books are transforming reading habits. Libraries are struggling to meet this new reality while still serving the needs of traditional patrons. A recent study by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project finds that most library patrons expect that library's digital service will expand and that the availability of free computers and internet access now rivals book lending and reference expertise as a vital service of libraries.
Information has adapted well to the digital age where the Library of Congress can be carried in your shirt pocket. But knowledge and information are useless without access to them and that's the assurance provided by our local libraries.
Libraries are at risk. Funding levels for the Grand County libraries were set two decades ago. Time and rising expenses over 20 years have taken their toll, and today's funding is simply insufficient to maintain any sort of status quo, let alone trying to meet the challenge of adopting technological advances as they happen.
Support for Grand County libraries has always been overwhelming, largely because our libraries are, and always have been, admirable examples of what libraries can be and have grown to meet our community needs. What Grand County does not have is an admirable example of voter turn-out. Trust me, there are those who will argue tooth, nail, and cuss words against a very tiny mill levy increase on your property tax. This is too important an issue to listen to them. Educate yourself if you have questions. Learn what an excellent steward the district has been with their current funding and you will understand that an increase is necessary today.
Vote for the library's mill levy increase. There's little you could do to better endorse and strengthen our lifestyle and our community.