By Ken DeLaat
Tuesday brings the vote on a new library for White Cloud.
I don’t reside within the boundaries of the WC Community Library service area. While often in the Cloud and known to frequent WCCL I will not be casting a ballot since that task remains within the domain of those who are being asked to support the new facility.
There exists an issue however, with regard to some of the comments being bantered about on the subject of this initiative. Particularly the argument regarding the relevance of libraries in today’s world.
For those who say libraries are outdated and passe I implore you to visit nearly any such place in any town. You’ll witness a steady stream of users throughout the day punctuated by the buzz of activity during peak times.
The children’s programming at our public libraries continues to evolve into events that spark creativity and a love of reading among our young and has resulted in a huge upswing of participation for families.
New facilities are emerging throughout the country because communities see them as civic showpieces offering much more than merely books. Libraries are incredible places with such broad appeal that few who enter their doors would find the contents of no use to them.
And what’s more they are consistently and universally quiet for the most part. And who doesn’t need a little quiet time?
I confess to being a huge fan of libraries. It was my third favorite place at CMU after The Bird (yeah, a bar) and The Malt Shop (not a bar) because of the endless possibilities that seemed to exist within its walls. It was a very cool place even though it did not serve beer nor did it have really fine pinball machines with ice cream being served on the premises. But very cool nonetheless.
When my older sister (just a year but I feel it’s kind of important to keep reminding her) landed a job at a library I admit there was an annoying stream of jealousy running through my veins despite a symbolic applauding of her good fortune. Further contemplation reminded me that having visited a number of libraries from coast to coast and abroad as well, the experience of finding competent, highly organized and well informed folks crewing the desks of the libraries I’ve entered has been consistent. I concluded that my somewhat meager organizational skills would likely have precluded any stab at proficiency within the workings of a library.
My big sis however, who inherited all the administrative ability genes to be found between us while I settled for a strong predisposition toward creative relaxation, found a home there. She loved it and having visited her on the job it was apparent she had found her place. Totally in her element as a lover of books and knowledge and fresh ideas she took pride in her role at sharing the ‘goods’ available at the library with her community. Retirement has not in the least diminished the affection she holds for this much favored workplace.
But I digress.
Libraries deserve our support. They say a great deal about their communities .A library symbolizes the importance a community places on knowledge. I’m certainly not saying that major companies will relocate because of a new library but enlightened people, people with ideas, those innovative, creative folks always, and I mean always, check out the library as well as the schools when considering relocation.
My point (and I do have one here somewhere) is that if you are inclined to not support what seems to be a much needed facility in our county seat I get it. You may have a number of reasons.
But one of the arguments that cannot stand up is the notion of our libraries no longer being relevant. They are as alive as ever, with growing numbers of visitors each day. Youngsters checking out their first books, new arrivals getting their library cards, job seekers and students accessing information through an internet not available or not affordable in their home. These are the people who populate our wonderful public libraries.
Yes, libraries are alive while breathing knowledge and information in the most egalitarian manner to all comers.They are temples of erudition and sanctuaries for enlightenment.
And worth every penny invested their way.
"I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture, and our concern for the future, can all be tested by how well we support our libraries."- Carl Sagan
To the Editor:
It seems that as the time gets closer to the elections on August 8 for school and library mileage requests, that things are getting more and more heated between 2 factions that either want or don’t want a new library. I’m obviously biased, as I’m a former WCCL library employee plus a lifelong reader, but I’m putting in my two cents for your consideration.
When I started working a the library part-time, it was deﬁnitely an eye-opening experience for me. I knew that not everyone checked out books or CDs, but I had no clue as to the amazing number of things that people came into the library for. You think that the library is just for checking out books? In our library in White Cloud, at little or no cost, you have access to:
* Notary Public
* Copy machine
* Fax machine
* Legal and tax forms
* Computer use. That’s a big one. Not everyone has internet service, or sometimes the power goes out. People need to do job searches, ﬁle for unemployment, do research for school papers, and any number of reasons known only to them.
* Meeting room/lounge area. Many small groups meet here, including cub scouts, girl scouts, and lots of summer programs have presentations here (John Ball Zoo for one). Some people come in to hang out in the lounge area & read a magazine to kill time while in the area. Many more “enrichment” type programs could have a place to be held if only there was more room.
* Summer Reading Programs for the children. This is a very cool program that’s been going on forever to keep the young ones up to speed on their reading. Lots of neat prizes, and it’s a place where reading a book is given value. Never a bad thing.
* Lots of books, magazines, and CD’s (both movies and educational/music videos. The books that are housed in the library building are only a small part of what you have access to. Our library is a part of the Lakeland system and the MELS system, which means that you have the capability of checking out a book that’s housed anywhere in the State of Michigan in one of those systems. Many E-books are available also if you have access to an E-reader.
I understand that one of the biggest reasons that the public is expressing against the library mileage is that they want to see road improvement ﬁrst. Everyone has an opinion on this issue, and it does need to be addressed. It’s unfortunate that our city elections for mayor are not coming ﬁrst, but we have to deal with things in the order that they’re coming. One positive improvement at a time.
A millage request is always an opportunity to say “no” to additional taxes. But we all have the responsibility to decide what our taxes will go towards by our vote. Though I don’t have children of my own, I feel it’s important to “pay it forward” and give a much-needed new library building to generations to come after us. We ALL deserve to have our viewpoints expressed and valued. This is just mine and I thank you for taking the time to listen.
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