Rushville Republican

May 14, 2013

Barada: Local library should be a county facility

Paul W. Barada
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — A noble effort is underway to renovate and expand the Rushville Public Library. It will not be an easy task. What will help, in my opinion, will be finally making the public library a county library. There are all sorts of reasons why the Rushville Public Library should become the Rush County Public Library, not the least of which is the fact that it costs county residents $55 per year for a library card. By making the library a county library, everyone in the county will be able to use it.

As Paula Poundstone, observational comedienne, once said, “I talk to a lot of librarians, and there’s always a steady drumbeat of how libraries are places of community. But a lot of them have also recently, and just in the nick of time, refurbished because, during this economic downturn, people have a tendency to borrow instead of buy.” With almost 1,700 people in the county currently spending $55 per year for a library card, making the library available to every county resident would be a vast improvement.

What would it cost county residents for the library to become available to everyone? The best information I have heard is the tax would be 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for county residents. For a county resident who’s currently paying, let’s say, $10,000 per year in property taxes, the assessment for a county library would tack on an additional $3; that’s not too great an increase to make the library available to everyone, or so it seems to me. There are, after all, people who would like to use the library, but who can’t afford the $55 bucks for a library card.

Here are some other quotes about why libraries are important.

“Libraries are a place for education and self-help. Because they bring access to all, they bring opportunity to all.”

“Libraries are America’s great information equalizers, the only place people of all ages and backgrounds can find and freely use such a diversity of resources, along with the expert guidance of librarians.”

“Libraries are part of the solution when a community is struggling economically. From free access to books and online resources for families to library business centers that help support entrepreneurship and retraining, libraries support lifelong learning.”

“Americans visit libraries almost 1.4 billion times and check out almost 2 billion items each year. Users turn to their libraries for free books, to borrow DVDs, to learn new computer skills, to conduct job searches and more.”

“Those most in danger of being left behind in the Information Age are most in need of assistance from library staff, using a mouse, establishing an e-mail account, filling out government forms online, using new software and effectively navigating Internet resources.”

Here’s an interesting tidbit of local history some may find amusing. If an effort is made to convert the city library into a county library, it won’t be the first time. Way back in the 1970s there was a concerted effort to make the library available to everyone in the county. For that to happen, the county commissioners had to approve the change. On the day they were to vote, about a dozen county residents showed up at the commissioners’ meeting, which, at the time, was held on the third floor of the courthouse (where the prosecutor’s offices are now). One old fellow was vehemently opposed to having any sort of increase in his taxes, which, at the time, would have been less than 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation; keep in mind that, at the time, property was assessed at one-third its true cash value. He voiced his objection in these words, “Why should I have to pay more for a county library? I don’t even know how to read!” Well, I suppose he had a point, but the more basic notion that he was missing was the obligation all of us have to do what’s best for all the citizens of this county, not just what’s best for us as individuals. Needless to say, the commissioners at that time were so impressed that a dozen county residents showed up that they voted down the request to make the library truly a county library, missing entirely the point that around 18,000 other people didn’t show up to object to what would have been an important step forward for the county at the time, just as it will still be today.

The argument has been put forward that libraries are no longer necessary because of the advent of the computer. Statistically, something like 75 percent of people in this nation own some sort of computer, but a computer will never be a substitute for real books or the satisfaction that comes from owning books. It’s actually easier to carry around a book and to mark one’s place in it than it is to use a computer as one’s primary source of reading material; real books don’t need to be recharged. More basically, the public library has computers for those who are doing research, and it contains resources that are available that typically can’t be found online. Take the local history section of our public library. There is more information available on the history of Rush County, its people, their ancestry, and much more in our public library than anywhere else. So, should the city library become a county library as part of its renovation and expansion plans? You bet it should!

That’s -30- for this week.