LETTER: Libraries are key community assetWhen I moved to New Richmond I was attracted to this city in almost every way except one. The library.
To the Editor:
When I moved to New Richmond I was attracted to this city in almost every way except one. The library.
Libraries are not depositories for books. You can get stuff in print from anywhere as well as music and movies. They have programs for all ages of kids and information about local history. If you’re out of work, or don’t have a computer at home – they have computers and access to the internet and even e-books.
In most small towns or rural communities, libraries are central spaces to gather, to share ideas, information, creative efforts and to learn together over time. Most libraries have meeting rooms and show case local arts. There are educational activities for the whole community and the emphasis is on free to all – not just those who can afford it.
New Richmond needs a new library – period. If you’ve ever been in there, you’ll note almost no nonfiction books for adults, two tables and chairs outside of the children’s area and seven computers. Seven computers available for all the people in the area. You shouldn’t even think about using a computer after 3 p.m. when school gets out. You’ll find lots of staff, but they’re needed when almost all materials have to come from other libraries because the Friday library is too small to house an adequate collection.
I find current civic priorities aggravating. Do you know that the Community Commons only brings together agencies that are able to “pay?” It’s not a community center.
Why did we build an ambulance garage instead of a library? Why do we want to enhance an RV park, establish a dog park or meet another special interest group need? Why do we even consider adding state-of-the-art athletic spaces for youth?
Life happens after high school and only about 10 percent of adults in New Richmond are involved in leagues. Everybody, though, needs places to continue to develop and to become part of a well-informed community that is healthy in body, mind and spirit.
We overvalue “physical health.” Parks expand at expense of libraries.
Walker removed the “maintenance of effort” that required communities to not drastically cut funds for libraries (as in Hammond.) If you have an e-reader you might not know that many people still can’t afford a computer let alone Internet access. U.S. Census Bureau figures specific to New Richmond estimates our total 2010 poverty rate at 12.7 percent (well above Hudson, for instance at 8.5 percent) but the figures are skewed by poverty rates of at least 20 percent in children under 18 and in “unrelated individuals 15 years and over.”
Can you imagine those 1,000-plus persons going to the library each week to do their homework or complete job applications? They’ll probably find the computers in use, and can’t turn to books because they have to be ordered ahead. We haven’t even talked about people like me who simply like to read and enjoy being exposed to a wide variety of materials.
Recent references in the New Richmond News to having a new public library being paid for by “their customers” are failing to recognize the meaning of “public.” Just as a park belongs to all the people, so does the library. And just as parks are indicators of town quality, so are libraries. Do we want to attract businesses? Grow our tax base? Improve school readiness and school performance? We all lose out when a library is inadequate.
Libraries serve and enhance the life of the whole community. Let’s start replacing the New Richmond library now.