Opinion: Our library needs community's support

May 26, 2006 11:00 pm

By Dave Throgmorton

and Jan Moorehouse

For The Daily Triplicate

On June 6, citizens of Del Norte County will have an opportunity to vote for a miniscule sales tax increase to support the public library.

Let's deal with the money first. We are talking about a one-quarter of 1 percent sales tax. That is 25 percent of a penny for every $1 spent or about a quarter for every $100 spent.

Since this is a sales tax, every tourist who buys a burger or springs for a souvenir T-shirt will help carry the load.

Though the individual cost is so tiny it is hardly worth discussing, the cumulative effect will mean nearly $400,000 annually for the Del Norte County Public Library. By comparison, the current annual operating budget is a disgraceful $180,000.

Now that we know the money is not an issue, there are two fundamental reasons to get behind our local library by supporting Measure A: what Measure A will do for our library and what our library will do for our community.

Measure A will allow the library staff, directed by the capable and amazingly optimistic Patty Hector, to keep our library open up to seven days a week.

How cool is that? Right now our library is open only four days a week with reduced hours during those four days.

People who want to use our library have to organize their lives around the oddball schedule.

Measure A will allow our librarians to purchase more. More books. More CDs. More reference materials. More computers. More databases. More of what people expect of a library in the 21st century.

Measure A will allow our librarians to provide more of the services people expect from their public library. More literacy programs. More programs for children. More programs to teach adults how to successfully sort through the glut of information on the internet. More services for travelers so they can truly explore Del Norte County as it should be explored.

Finally, Measure A will allow us to make physical improvement in our library so that it can truly become the community commons. At the moment our library is not comfortable and Measure A will provide the funds to make it a safe and comforting place to study, browse, attend lectures or simply read.

And, once Measure A passes, what can our fully functioning library do for our community?

In a grand sense, it will keep us free. It is not an accident that when despots and tyrants take over countries, they close the libraries and control the schools.

Free and open access to information is the cornerstone of a free society, and if a library is closed with padlocks or strangled with inadequate funding, the result is the same. We are less free.

Andrew Carnegie, who used his fortune to seed public libraries all over America, knew this to be true when he said, "There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library."

A good public library allows citizens to follow their curiosity wherever it might lead them and is accessible to the rich and poor alike.

This is particularly important in Del Norte County where many homes do not have shelves full of books.

Our local schools alone cannot bridge the gap between students who are raised in homes with access to thousands of years of history and hundred of ideas from home libraries and those who are raised in homes with no books at all.

But our library can bridge that gap.

Malcolm Forbes noted that "The richest person in the world — in fact all the riches in the world — couldn't provide you with anything like the endless, incredible loot available at your local library."

He did not know about the Del Norte County Library.

But Measure A could change that by allowing our library to be the kind of place Forbes was talking about, where rich and poor can chase their curiosity until they are satisfied or exhausted.

As the top public school administrators in Del Norte County, we are painfully aware of the disparities that exist in our community. We cannot compensate for all the differences between students who are raised with books and those who are not, but with a fully funded public library we will have a powerful tool in our kits to make a difference.

When you consider that plus the services that our public library can provide for adults who want to learn about how to grow their business or explore their family genealogy or whatever adults want to learn, you don't need any more reasons to support our public library by voting for Measure A.

The best thing a library can be is open.

Dave Throgmorton is vice president of College of the Redwoods-Del Norte. Jan Moorehouse is superintendent of Del Norte County School District.