There are many reasons we should all be willing to shell out a few $10 bills each year in property taxes to keep our Douglas County Library system going.
But here’s what they boil down to:
Libraries make us smarter.
As a bonus, they make us richer and happier, too.
Put another way, without libraries, we are dumber, poorer and less happy. And that’s certainly not what Douglas County wants to be.
The Save our Libraries PAC has put forward a modest spending proposal that would restore our libraries to the budgets, and the hours, they had a decade ago. It’s asking for a library district, taxed at 44 cents per $1,000 of property value, to rescue a library system that will, in all likelihood, soon disappear otherwise.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted recently to put a library district on the November ballot. They made the right decision, and you can too, by voting “YES” for a library district.
The county commissioners have made vague references to finding another solution if the library district doesn’t pass, but we aren’t convinced they will. The county is just about out of money, and spends every dime of its property taxes keeping the sheriff’s department going.
The library can’t charge fees like the parks or solid waste departments have started to do, and it can’t be outsourced like the health department was. (The jury’s still out on whether that plan is going to work.)
The library can’t charge for its library cards without losing state and grant funding. Nor should it. The purpose of a library is to be a free source of knowledge.
Kids learn to love reading by attending story times when they’re small and getting in the habit of checking out books. Many low-income individuals would find it tremendously difficult to obtain employment without access to the library’s internet service. Businesses and professional people — like the doctors we so frequently lament are difficult to recruit here — will turn up their noses at an area too backward to fund its public library.
Studies have been performed around the country — in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and other places — showing that $1 of every tax dollar spent on their libraries returned between $3 and $6 back to their communities.
Without libraries, many of us would spend more money on books, go without information we needed, make fewer trips to town and spend less money there. If the library system closes down, 18 people would also be thrown out of work. And many of those have family wage jobs. Many would have to move in order to find a suitable job, and the roughly $600,000 in income they have to spend in the local economy would disappear.
The fact that those library jobs are government funded in no way diminishes the fact that they are also good for our economy.
Other studies show that there is a statistically significant relationship between library children’s programs and early reading success in school. Libraries make it financially possible for families with children to keep a steady supply of bedtime reading on hand, and that’s critical for their future.
Children who don’t learn the love of books early on will fall behind their peers at school.
Already, one in four of our children in Douglas County lives in poverty. Don’t let your eyes glide over that statistic. Pause a moment. Really take it in. One in four. To deny them access to the books that could help lift them out of that poverty is bad for our county. It’s also morally wrong.
And when we don’t do right by our kids, our chickens come home to roost. Kids who struggle in school are more likely to skip classes, leave school, become juvenile delinquents, abuse drugs and become teen mothers. And who pays for the consequences? You, that’s who. Losing our libraries means life gets worse for all of us. Keeping them means giving our kids and all of us a fighting chance, at literacy, and at a better, happier, richer life.
We think spending a modest 44 cents per $1,000 to save our libraries looks like a bargain. Don’t you?