A rote vote?

It was a cold and rainy winter day when I first entered the Ashland library in 1971, there to look for a couple of books to read. A fire was roaring in the hearth, which broadcast its warmth into a very inviting area furnished with large comfortable chairs and sofas, in which several people were leisurely reading. A couple of dogs were asleep near the flickering flames, making the whole atmosphere warm with comfort. The staff was knowledgeable, the patrons pleased and the dogs did not have fleas.

It was a slice of heaven.

We, as a community, expect certain levels of basic services to accompany the taxes we pay, year in and year out. If there is a robbery, we await the police to arrive and investigate it. If a tool shed catches on fire, we anticipate to hear, then soon see, a well-maintained fire engine roll up to the scene with eager, well-trained firemen soon about the task at hand. When we turn a spigot, we never doubt to instantly have potable water pour forth. We never doubt that the toilet will flush every time and the effluent dealt with in an environmentally responsible manner.

We rely upon a library that is sized for the community, well stocked and run efficiently by a professional, paid staff. It goes without saying that we require the library to be open during reasonable hours.

Now that our library is closed, let us take a look at the bright side of the matter. With the lights off and the heating and cooling taking a break, we have a zero carbon footprint to admire, if only from a distance. No need to keep the computers running, no books to correctly file away, no demand for parking, no wasting time doing research or simply leafing through a copy of Reason in Common Sense, by the novelist, poet, essayist and philosopher George Santayana, in which his oft-quoted aphorism, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," might give an uncomfortable pause to reflect upon the state of world affairs as seen through the lens of a closed library.

Permit me to slip into contentious territory for a moment and put some financial perspective on the failed $8,300,000 per year (for three years) library levy that was to re-open the county's 15 libraries. Our "mission" in Iraq has cost the citizens of Jackson County approximately $162 million and counting. This is a sum that would fund the library system for 20 years. It has the added benefit of not being paid for by property owners, for the wages of war have been put on a national credit card, to be paid off by future generations. Millions will be born into an ocean of debt for one man's vision of a "mission," which, despite all reasonable attempts, seems to come down to not getting killed while occupying a thin crust of sand and soil that covers an estimated 300 billion barrels of oil enough to keep our terrestrial greenhouse topped off, capped and ready to broil for generations.

Now back to the books.

I feel that properly staffing our local library should be incorporated into the city budget and not open to the vagaries of a county-wide vote in order to be funded. With an open and again professional staff in place, we will be the light of knowledge in a night of ignorance. We can be the start of new thinking that is necessary to plan for and fund the services befitting the greatest nation on Earth.

Lance was last seen sitting on his porch during the early evenings, book and newspaper in hand, whispering into the ear of his loyal canine companion, encouraging Spooky to go fetch fresh ideas for funding all our important public services. If you have an idea that might open the branches, fly it to lance@journalist.com.

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