For better or for worse, I am not an overly active political person. I do not protest; I am not one to write my representative. I know that I probably should become more active on the political front, as I cannot impact any changes if I do not speak up and let my opinions be known. (I do vote, so at least I have one thing going for me.)
This week, I discovered the cause to finally help me find my voice. A few weeks ago, I hoped to visit the local public library while my son was in his piano lesson across the street. I was thoroughly confused when I noticed that the library was closed for the day…on a Friday. It made no sense to me, and I expressed my consternation on Twitter that night. A few days later, I receive a note home from Holly’s school that helped shed some light on the subject. It was a public service announcement about the pending vote on a public library levy.
It seems that due to lack of funds, the local library system cut open hours to only 47 hours per week and have laid off 21 employees. In addition, materials purchased to meet certain specific needs have been eliminated as well as some services. Even though circulation of books and other items were up by 15 percent last year, as in prior years, the state cut funding for the library systems by 11 percent, on top of general reduction in funding of 20 percent.
This entire situation makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. Middletown, Ohio is not a pretty town. It is strictly blue collar, servicing the nearby steel plant, and has undergone a severe decline over the years as people migrate to more affluent neighborhoods in the surrounding area. The area does not have much in the way of safe hangouts for locals; to lose the library, which is a safe haven for many residents, is a huge blow.
I may not be the largest user of the library these days but I do recognize the importance of having access to them. It saddens me that our public officials even consider cutting such services, but it is extremely disheartening knowing that the library system will have to fight to get the levy approved by voters. Why are people blind to the need for tax increases, especially when governments are cutting service after service to try to fit their budget restraints? When it comes to school funding or library funding, why should there even be a discussion? It behooves all citizens to vote for such funding because it only adds to the local area, attracting new citizens and businesses, improving commerce and bringing in new revenue for additional services. The harmful impact of not voting for such funding far outweighs the tax increase.
It is time for others to realize that if we hope to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy, if we hope to remain among the top nations in the world in military, economic and political influence, it starts in our backyards, with good schools and libraries to help support a nation of learning and culture of education. No library should have to cut services to meet budget restraints. The long-term repercussions are too dangerous to allow this to happen.
Libraries Enrich Lives is the organization that is lobbying for the pending levy in this area. It is such an apt title, don’t you think? Libraries do indeed enrich lives, as long as they remain open.