Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Considerations about the Library

The public library in Orange, one of the very first in the nation, has existed since at least 1857.  Through good times and bad, the Civil War, the Depression, and both World Wars, the Town of Orange has supported and benefited from the Library.  Are the times more dire today than any we have endured in the past 150 years?

The Library has had incredible private support from Town residents over the years.  Both Library buildings were given to the community.  Many individual have donated resources to enhance library services to Town residents, not because we didn’t have a Library, but because they wanted the Library to improve or expand.  Is the Town ready to betray the trust of those donors that the Town would continue to provide basic support to the Library for its day to day operations?

The Library has been a good “citizen” as a department of the Town.  We have given back money to the Town when requested.  For many years we presented bare bones budgets in recognition of the Town’s difficult situation.  We replaced the Library heating system at a cost of more than $100,000 and did not ask the Town for a dime. We have used grants, state aid, and private donations to fund anything other than the most basic of services.  This year at least 25% of the Library’s expenditures will come from non-Town revenue.  The library has pursued the course because the trustees believe library services are essential, especially during hard economic times.  Eliminating the library during a recession is like closing the hospital during a plague.  Many Town residents enjoy and depend on its services.

The Library has provided documentation to the Finance Committee and the Selectmen that for every $1.00 spent by the Town, residents receive $4.50 in services.  The Town contributes just over $250,000 and receives more than $1,000,000 in benefits.  These figures include only the benefits that are easily measured.  When someone comes to the Library and prepares a resume, does a job search and becomes employed, the Town benefits from increased tax revenues, lower social service costs, and from having a productive citizen.  When a child gets a head start in school, because of their exposure to books and reading at the Library, and grows up to be happier, healthier, and better informed citizen, the Town benefits financially and otherwise.  When a senior citizen on a fixed income finds information, education, and recreation at the Library, is that not important?  Name another town department where Orange residents can go and recoup their tax investment in one visit, with no fee- license- permit- bill or unfortunate incident (fire or crime) involved.  If good government is about efficiency, getting the most bang for the taxpayer buck, promoting a more informed and productive community – the Library is one of our proudest achievements!

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