I think libraries are one of the best deals out there today for those who pay taxes. I only occasionally borrow books at the library, but even my occasional borrowing, if I consider the retail price of the book, more than offsets the portion of my taxes.
My basic argument for libraries is that they are one of the most powerful weapons we have for sustaining our democracy, particularly given the growing income disparities in our country.
- They provide online access, computer terminals, and printing facilities for those who cannot afford these.
- They offer books for children who cannot afford them, fostering literacy at the most critical time of life.
- They provide resources for job searches, and often basic courses in job-seeking, and computer literacy that is fundamental for many workers.
- Many offer homework assistance for students and language assistance for immigrants wanting to learn English.
- Libraries make available expensive manuals and reference materials for those who by necessity are do-it-yourselfers.
- Many offer help with college admissions tests, helping to offset the advantages that more affluent students have with test prep courses and other assistance, legal or illegal, in getting admitted to colleges.
In addition, libraries offer so much at no cost to patrons simply for personal growth and entertainment–books, recorded music, videos in both physical and e-formats. They offer a range of programs serving every age group from children to seniors for personal enrichment. The demand for all these services continues to rise, often meaning personnel in the libraries are trying to stretch funding to acquire materials, and often the same people are working harder and longer–many of whom hold at least masters degrees in library science.
Librarians also are increasingly have to cope with the social challenges of our age. Librarians may be the first to spot child abuse. In urban centers, librarians often serve patrons who are homeless, chemically dependent, or mentally ill. In some instances, librarians are the first to respond to a drug overdose and many are trained to administer Naloxone.
All this is to say that I am proud to support the library in my community and extremely impressed with all that they accomplish with our tax dollars. I would venture that this is true in most communities. Why not take time to thank a librarian this week? And if there is a tax issue on the ballot, the best way you can say thanks is to vote yes. It not only is a great bargain (often less than your Prime membership, and certainly your cable bill), but it is one of the best investments I can think of in sustaining our democracy.