04 August 2011

Vote YES on Libraries

Vote Yes on Libraries! is the battle cry of freedom going around Mendocino County. All it will take to make our public libraries forever financially independent will be a 67% yes vote on the library initiative, Measure A next November.

Which vote will include a teeny tiny little increase in the county sales tax.

I forlornly hope this thing does pass with two-thirds of the voters plus one affirming it. 67 per cent in favor of an increase in sales tax? Forlorn hope.

According to supporters, the tax increase will amount to 1/8 of a cent on the dollar, or 13 cents for every hundred dollars spent on taxable items. It might cost the average household, if there are any of those left around here, maybe $2 a month. The result would be an estimated windfall for county libraries of $1.3 million each year. The money could be spent only on supporting libraries, nothing else – providing longer hours, more staff, better book replacement, more outreach, more programs for children.

About that term “forlorn hope” ... I came across it in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels. British soldiers fighting Napoleon, ordered or volunteered first into the breech to face fully loaded cannon and muskets, were termed the Forlorn Hope. Few survived, but they fought with honor. Honor was not a small thing in those days.

Our more recent ancestors built magnificent libraries – their descendants so far have not managed to keep them open.

Today I walked up to the Fort Bragg Public Library. It was closed, of course. I could see walls of books, computers, comfortable reading chairs and tables. I pictured knowledgeable librarians ready to point out good reads and collect overdue fines.

A sign taped to the locked door disclosed this library now is staffed by two 36-hour employees, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, for a total of 23 open hours a week. These tragically short hours are damaging to our community, a drag on the future and a blow against the general well-being.

Presently there are virtually no services for children in local libraries. In Fort Bragg the summer reading group for children is ending and nothing will take its place. Supporters of the library initiative report that state funding for Mendocino County libraries has dropped more than 80%. Three years ago local libraries were open 40 hours per week.

Due to lack of funding you no longer can enter a Mendocino County library to obtain a book from out of county. You just cannot do it. Until recently if the book was on a library shelf in, say, Modesto, upon request it would shortly appear in Fort Bragg and be held for you at no charge.

If you’d like to find out more or support the Yes on A campaign, you can phone a volunteer, or look into their web site. The coast contact phone number is (707) 937-5925; inland call 485-5827. The Yes on A web site is voteyesonlibraries.org

Are libraries still relevant? Is visiting the library on your to-do list if you have a smart phone in your pocket and an iPad in your backpack?

Let me list the ways...

Some children have a parent who will read to them, talk them through the pages of a picture book, associate reading with happy times together. Some do not. Those children especially need the nurture and support a librarian can provide. And the responsibility of returning a book on time.

Not everyone has access to digital media, and not everyone is able to use it successfully. Help is available at the library.

Not all reading materials are digitized and available through Google. And not all books and documents are free, but these materials can be found for free in a library. No serious researcher can afford to skip library research. Where else can one read actual newspapers, magazines and books, listen to books on tape and see videos. Find sheet music to play. For free.

You can read alone, you can browse alone, but it’s fun sometimes to share with others. It is inspiring to hear about a new author and it’s inspiring simply to watch others enjoy reading.

Peace. Quiet. The ineffable smell of actual books. The library as refuge. Vote yes, and keep libraries open!


Origin of “forlorn hope”

Vote “Yes” on Libraries

1 comment:

Holly Tannen said...

Dear Tony:

Thanks for letting us know about the library closures. Especially in the age of the internet, when realms of data can be disappeared with a click, libraries are vital to keeping alive our intellectual and historical records. I will support Yes on A in any way I can.

John Dowland, the Elizabethan lutenist, wrote a piece called "Forlorn Hope Fancy." Here's Julian Bream's version of it.


And thanks again for Words on Books. Not only is it a great show, but it's an excellent example of how much one can say in a small amount of time.



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