Libraries are not optional: Vote ‘yes’ for the mill levy

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This And That By Avis Anderson
Thursday, May 14, 2020
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Never in all my 70-plus years did I think I would be writing to add my voice to those who are trying to save a library. Who would ever have thought a public library in a small rural community would be something that could be disregarded and thus discarded so easily. Today I write on a subject so dear to my heart and soul and the heart and soul of Glendive it requires emotion as well as hard-headed logic. The Glendive Public Library will close at the end of June 2020 if the mill levy to support it is not passed. Ballots were mailed out on May 8th. Again: The Glendive Public Library will close its doors the end of June 2020 if funding is not available. That means the Richey Public Library will close as well.

No new books, no children’s programming, no Summer Reading Program. Libraries are a way to welcome children to a safe place in a time when they are at risk. No genealogical library, no access to State data bases, no computer time if you are without a computer. No place to go for answers to your questions. The Montana History room contains historical items of value to understanding our community and our State. All of this gone.

The nuts and bolts of the voters’ decision is this: if your home is valued at $100,000 your taxes will go up $3.92 to support the library. If your home is valued at $250,000 your taxes will go up $9.80 to support the library. For less than the cost of a hard bound book ($25) — that is how much your taxes will go up if you approve this levy.

Our county commissioners have said they do not have the money to fund a library. They have chosen to fund other projects. But we must all remember that on the basis of where we choose to place our funding, we can lose the soul of a generation by not providing the tools necessary for intellectual growth, for appreciation of the arts, and for that most basic of all skills, reading. A democracy is about free access to information and that must be the goal of a community large or small. If we want Glendive to grow, if we want people to want to move here and raise their families, then we must examine all the cornerstones of our development. This includes schools, hospitals, parks and recreation, and as the center of this wheel, the public library.

Of equal importance is the concrete presence of a public library in Glendive and on that you cannot place a price. It is odd that today when unemployment is the worst in eighty years, when people have nothing, not even food for the table, this is when politicians and community leaders decide to unfund items of culture and education when we need them more than ever.

Seeing the value of the arts and learning in our still struggling nation, John Adams, our second president, wrote to his wife Abigail, ”I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” He knew the dark days of the Revolutionary War and as the country was stumbling toward nationhood, that to advance to a learned and informed society, all things must be given equal weight. For Abraham Lincoln learning came through reading and he walked miles to acquire books.

Julius Caesar opened the first public library for the people of Rome. One of the 7 wonders of the ancient world was the great library at Alexandria, Egypt. Libraries, along with churches and schools, have always been the first signs of civilization in communities attempting to establish themselves and provide the very best environment for the people who live there.

Our own struggle now with the Coronavirus has revealed how important online education has been to the schooling of our children. It is likely this will continue in the years to come. Access to libraries, and thus to information in all its forms will be the resources for this new kind of learning. During these times of economic depression and social isolation, books provide the solace for people to find other times and places when life was difficult and people found the courage and will to survive. There is a whole realm of study called bibliotherapy which uses reading to help people find their way back to health.

Dawson County has supported schools and libraries since its foundation. The Women’s Club of Glendive started the first free public library over 100 years ago. I told you early on I am emotional about public access to books and a love for reading — this is a call to arms. All of us, old and young, rich and poor, must have a public library. This is a right in our free society and not optional. Libraries will continue into the future as a gathering place to encourage education and provide information in the community and the world. Glendive must not be without. Support our Glendive Public Library. Vote YES for the public library mill levy in this election.

Avis R. Anderson is a retired member of the Glendive community. Her online blog can be found at www.prairienewdays.com.

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