Why I Will Vote For Our Library Levy

Next Tuesday Worthington Public Library, the library that serves our area, has a levy on the ballot. The levy will add approximately $60 a year or $5 a month to my property taxes. While that doesn’t sound like much, every little bit of taxes eats into my discretionary income. And the truth is, my home is a library of sorts, and so much is available on the internet. I have no school age children at home. So why vote for this?

For one thing, it isn’t all about me. Libraries are one of the things that make communities rich and livable. They serve as a community center. Our nearby library serves as a community meeting space. When a number of us were concerned to save a local wetland from developers, the library was a key meeting center.

I am also deeply impressed with the number of children’s programs and after school programs and academic assistance offered the children and youth of our community by the library. The love of literature and literacy is under fire with so many competing distractions. Libraries are one of the places helping children fall in love with stories and books and the wonderful experience of the imagined story unmediated by video. Our library also offers tutor rooms and serves as a wonderful adjunct to a good school system.

Our library also offers resources to immigrants and those who are economically challenged through unemployment to access the internet, search for jobs, print documents when they may not be able to afford the computers, internet connections and printers at home needed for functions many of us easily accomplish. Many who use these services are working hard to establish themselves and are not looking for a hand out but a hand up that helps them with their own initiative and respects their dignity.

Our library stewards it resources well and has been nationally recognized. It was rated a Five Star Library in November 2012, one of only 30 to receive this award for the past five years. It seeks to be responsive to the community, enjoys continuing increases in patronage, and has vastly increased its resources in the area of digital downloads, recognizing the changing world of libraries.

Lastly, I find they continue to provide excellent service. I don’t borrow books often but when I do, I can obtain books from any Columbus Metro Library within days. They even have drive through pickup on reserves. Recently, I was researching books on changing trends in higher education and was able to obtain a number of books on reserve from my home computer, was able to download one available in digital to my Kindle, and reserve via internet chat a book not in the system via inter-library loan, all in about 15 minutes, without even having to go to the library. What a pleasure!

Actually, come to think of it, the books I reserved would probably have cost me what I will spend in property taxes to support the library.  All in all, not a bad bargain for such an important community resource!

Airplane Conversations

I mentioned in my last post that I was traveling.  Today I was flying back from Chicago — about an hour flight that actually arrived early.  Of course the weather was perfect — if they can’t get it right then, will they ever?

Seatmates on the flight are one of the things that still makes travel interesting to me. Today my seatmate was an English prof at one of our universities in the region. She is a professor of children’s and young adult literature — the one area of publishing she said is actually making money.  That was the first interesting observation.

I suppose that it is an occupational hazard of faculty to be dismayed with their students. But she seemed especially saddened as she observed the poor reading and writing ability of students who often come to college with high GPAs from secondary schools. From her observation of her own suburban district, grades often are inflated and teachers yield to pressures from parents to not hurt their children’s college chances with low grades.  This certainly tracks with concerns about low SAT scores.

We talked about the shift of so much media to tablet computers and smartphones and how this affects reading (and writing in 140 character bits). Meanwhile she spoke of a reading assignment of a short novel and students who went ballistic because they had to read in four days what many of us might have read in a sitting.  I wonder more and more if there is a connection that has something to do with how our brains are wired.  She spoke of the “siren” call of this technology — it’s addictive character.

We returned to the topic of Young Adult literature which she emphasized was “real” literature. (Time didn’t permit, but I might have asked, will it be enduring literature?)  She spoke of how much of it was dystopian and of the resonance of these ideas with the students in her courses.

What strikes me is that blaming the young for the state of education is like blaming followers for the failures of their leaders. I wonder if the emerging generation’s fascination with dystopias reflects an awareness, however inchoate, that there are some things deeply wrong with the world they entering, chock-full as it is with clever electronica. I wonder…