There’s quite a controversy going on in Seattle about a $123 million levy to help fund the public library system for seven years. The Seattle Times has editorialized against the levy. Nancy Pearl has editorialized for it, but then again she’d have to.
It’s an odd debate, because some of the people most in favor of supporting libraries are opposed to the levy, and they have a point. The levy is to increase operating expenditures over 7 years, but that’s all. It’s not for some special one-time project, like building a new library building or something. It’s just to temporarily add to the operating budget of the library system instead of using general funds to support the library.
The argument against doing that is that by removing the burden of providing for the library temporarily from the general budget and freeing up general funds for something else, it risks permanently removing the burden, thus making periodic levies necessary to keep the libraries running.
Thus, some opponents of the levy are opposed because they believe that library operating expenditures should be a crucial part of the city budget.
Of course some of the arguments against the levy are a little weird. Like the comment, “Those using the Library – Should pay for it…”. They kinda do pay for it already, so that’s sort of beside the point. Libraries are like public schools in that they benefit a community even if you don’t use them yourself. Get used to it.
Or this one: “I would help support the libraries if and only if they make the decision to stop allowing homeless people to come in and use the internet for Porn. I have a problem spending million on state of the art computers get used the majority of the time for masterbation.”
So the majority of computer use at the libraries is homeless people masturbating? I think most people could agree that homeless people masturbating in public to Internet porn on a library computer is a bad thing without believing that’s mostly how the computers are used. Good grief.
Or this troll: “Public libraries are an antiquated relic of the past. Why are we spending money on libraries when everything is available online? No one uses a library except cheapskates, weirdos, perverts and homeless sociopaths.”
I assume the sociopaths with homes don’t use the “antiquated relic of the past,” though apparently a lot of people do use the library. Maybe they like antiquated relics.
The problem with debates about libraries is that they tend to be so black and white. “Antiquated relic of the past”? Yeah, sure, whatever. That kind of comment just inspires its equally untrue opposite: “Libraries are not archaic, quite the opposite is true. In a world that is increasingly virtual and disconnected they are needed now more than ever.”
Needed now more than ever? Really? They’re needed now more than when a huge number of books, magazines, news sites, and reference information is freely available online? When even people who are supporters of libraries haven’t visited one in years?
Instead of just saying that libraries serve a necessary or beneficial social function, people have to respond to nonsense with more nonsense.
Pearl’s guest editorial does a good job of talking about what libraries and librarians do for people day to day, which is at least specific. But even there we get statements like, “The public library is the heart and soul — and brain — of the community.”
Reread that sentence a couple of times. What can that sentence possibly mean? I’ll tell you. It doesn’t mean anything other than that Nancy Pearl likes libraries.
Forget things like the universities, the churches, or even the waterfront. No, the library is the heart and soul and brain of the city! That over the top description isn’t even necessary to make the case for what libraries do for people.
On the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily make a case for supporting the levy, either, since it seems like plenty of anti-levy people are very pro-library.
It’s kind of hard to tell who is really for the library here. Oh well, whatever happens it’s nice to see that people are passionate about libraries.