Since the library expansion issue became public everyone is asking: "What's in it for me?" Comments range from "everyone can buy all the books they want" to "libraries aren't necessary anymore, everything's on the Internet" and "our library is just fine the way it is."
Well, frankly, our local library isn't fine just the way it is.
During 14 years of residence in Routt County, I have witnessed the pressure of growth on community services. The library is no exception. I can no longer sit in a comfortable chair and browse magazines. Work tables have disappeared. Children and teens no longer have any space to work on homework projects. For research of my own I am obliged to carry a dozen books home with me because I cannot find space enough to sort through them at the library. There are no private spaces remaining at the library for consultation.
When my children were young, library programs were held in the basement program area. With the expansion of the children's collection into that area, programs have been curtailed. Summer programs are held outside -- but when it rains, they are often cancelled. How can we expect to develop a younger generation interested in life long learning if we don't provide space for them in the community library? It's no wonder that the teens hang out at the Fifth Street Bridge these days -- without seating or a teen area, the library isn't very inviting. Under the current conditions, the library is a 'get in, get a book, and get out' situation.
Some people complain that library waiting lists for new books are so long, they buy their books instead. That's all well and good for those who can afford to buy books for themselves and their children, but such elitism is not the foundation for a strong and inclusive community: free public access to information is. I'm sure the majority in the community cannot afford to buy all the books they want to read and rely instead on the public library for resources.
Now computers are invading every inch of the library. I sincerely believe that free Internet access is also an essential library service; however, the close proximity of computers to other library functions is distracting. As available space continues to decrease, books are held on moveable carts along the aisles and around the circulation desk. There is hardly room between the stacks to turn around (sometimes I crawl along the floor to read titles on the bottom shelves).
What about the elderly and people with disabilities? How can they cope with this space squeeze?
The proposed library expansion provides a long-term solution to the current overcrowding while keeping the library downtown where it is easily accessible to all.
Consider this: The referendum proposed to finance the expansion of the Bud Werner Library will provide increased access to literature, audio/visual items, sophisticated databases too expensive for small business or personal subscription, expert research material and assistance, imaginative story programs for children, study related texts for students, space for small group consultation and general library programming, all in a comfortable, well-lighted downtown environment for about the cost per person of one new hard cover novel per year. It's a small price to pay.
When people ask "what's in it for me," I tell them: everything... resources for a better quality of life, answers to all your questions, delightful entertainment, enduring history and a future for you and for our community.
Please support the library by voting yes on referendum 5A and 5B.