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December 26, 2013

Libraries benefit everyone and are worth funding

By David Kent
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Libraries are wonderful institutions that offer something for everyone. Whether it’s finding good books or movies, accessing the Internet, attending one of our many adult or children’s programs, doing research, or just hanging out to read or socialize, the Village Library of Cooperstown has it all. We’re open seven days a week and offer both a community center to the public and an outlet to the information world.

Our ability to continue in such a format is currently in peril because the Village of Cooperstown, which up to now has been our major source of funding, would like the budget to be more equitable and spread among the areas that we currently serve. The Village contributes 76% of the budget while maintaining only 34% of the card holders.

Besides the obvious inequities in our funding the budget has never been secure. One way to provide a steady funding stream is to go to the voters. That is why we are providing a proposition that will appear on the school district ballot on May 20, 2014 that will propose funding for our library and the Hartwick library as well (since it is also in the Cooperstown School District). It should be emphasized that our budget proposition is completely separate from the school budget. We are just using the school district as a conduit for our proposal.

I could talk about all the great things that the library provides but once you mention the word “tax” people tend to recoil. People hate that word more than any other in the English language. The patrons that regularly use the library appreciate all its benefits but what about those people who never use the library? Many of them will see no reason to vote for a proposal that provides no obvious benefit to them.

The truth is that a vibrant public library does provide a direct benefit to them, whether they use the library or not. Studies have shown that a public library improves the overall quality of a community and increases property values. Cities and towns with a strong real estate market are ones that historically have had strong school systems and strong infrastructures. Public libraries are part of that infrastructure.

Non-users should also remember that the library can assist a community in ways they may not realize beyond the “quality of life” argument. Children are able to obtain materials they cannot get at their school library. In a down economy the library can be a savior for those looking for a job or trying to improve their skills. Even non-users should realize that such assets buoy the economy and our way of life.

In addition, we have had several “non-users” who discover their personal computer, printer, or Internet connection has stopped working and find salvation at the library. Even something as simple as the need for tax forms have proved invaluable for those that see themselves as “non-users.”

It’s easy to scoff at a “tax” if you perceive to get nothing out of it. But that belief is simply a myth when it comes to public libraries. They truly benefit everyone whether you take advantage of the institution or not. Libraries are a valuable part of the community in ways that aren’t always readily apparent.

David Kent is the director of the Village Library of Cooperstown. He can be reached at co.david@4cls.org.