Saturday, June 27, 2009
The Importance of Ohio Public Libraries
Public libraries are one of the foundations of our system of democracy. I’m reminded of this every time I walk into mine, because carved over the door is this quotation from John Adams: “LIBERTY CANNOT BE PRESERVED WITHOUT A GENERAL KNOWLEDGE AMONG THE PEOPLE.” I never fail to find this reassuring, no matter how exasperated I am about local schools or politicians.
I live in a small town and work four miles away in an even smaller village, and so my children have always been lucky enough to have access to two public libraries—the village one, where we all loved to browse in the same room, and where the summer reading program was just steps away from the playground outside, and the bigger one where we go now to pick out books and audiobooks. In the last few years, the bigger library has had a terrific Young Adult librarian who has gotten my kids involved in library events and ordered some of the new books that interest them and keep them coming back in to see what’s new. But she was fired in the second round of cuts this spring.
Now under the Adams quotation on the door is a notice about the most recently proposed Ohio library budget cuts. I took a photo of it, because I found it so ironic underneath the Adams quotation.
It’s also ironic that Ohio’s governor, who proposed educational reforms earlier this spring, should now be proposing to cut back on the best system of public education we have in this country. People in small towns like mine need libraries. They need to be able to read and find out the Truth about the larger world, especially because mine is a town where one of the middle school “science” teachers who is NOT being drummed out of the school system for teaching religion told my daughter that she should make a choice between “believing in” either creationism or evolution and then two years later took my son aside and chastised him for making a statement in class supporting evolution when “it wasn’t necessarily true” and the other kids “had to make that decision for themselves.”
My neighbors need books more than they need almost anything else. Governor Strickland, I’m willing to pay more taxes to ensure that they continue to have access to those books. If the proposed cuts go through, my village library will close completely, and the bigger library will have to restrict its hours so severely that it will be hard for working people to keep track of when it’s open and when it’s not.
So raise my taxes. Give me the option of paying extra taxes directly to a library fund, so that I can support the library on behalf of my poorer neighbors. Don’t do any more damage to Ohio’s library system.
John Green, who went to college in the village and is the author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns, also wrote about Ohio libraries this week, so if you're interested in more of the facts, hop over there and see what he has to say. And if you live in Ohio, make sure your elected representatives know what you think about library funding.