Nov 162013

I stumbled across a column in the November 14th issue of The Hooksett Banner by Amber Cushing, Director of the Allenstown Public Library.  The column does not seem to have been posted to the newspaper’s website, so I’m going to post it in its entirety before giving y’all my thoughts-

As I alluded to in the last piece in my column, I’d like to address the argument that “I don’t use the library, so it doesn’t need funding.”

Again, statistics alone disprove this argument.  At the Allenstown Public Library, 34 percent of the population has a library card, and circulation has increased every year for the past five years.  But as with my last column, I’d like to explre the roots of this claim.

When someone claims, “No one uses the library anymore, so we don’t need a library,” they most likely mean “I don’t use the library anymore, so it has no value for anyone else.”  This argument is akin to saying, “I don’t drive on Main Street, so it does not need to be paved.”  Just because one person chooses not to use a town service does not mean the town service ceases to have value for someone else.  A more accurate statement would be “I choose not to use some town services, so they have no value to me.”  OK.  Great.  You’re entitled to your choice.  However, when it comes to the library at least 34 percent of town residents do not agree with you.  And that’s OK, too, because they are entitled to their choices.

We get ourselves into a sticky situation when we assume that everyone should make the same choices we make.  The world doesn’t work that way.  Things get even stickier when we assume that everyone has the same financial means we do.  “I can afford to buy my own computer(s), books, DVDs, Internet access, etc., so no one else needs access to these things,” or “I don’t like to read, so no one else should be able to read,” don’t make for very effective arguments, either.

So when you think about your opinion regarding the necessity of the library, I challenge you to ask yourself: Am I trying to force my choices onto someone else?  Why?

There are a lot of problems with Ms. Cushing’s arguments, but I’m just going to address the most glaring.

What Ms. Cushing is concerned about is a 25% cut to the town funding for the library.  I have come across no one who is actually working to close down the Allenstown library, so people aren’t saying “[the library] has no value for anyone else,” “[main street] should not be paved,” “no one needs access to these things,” or “no one should be able to read.” Rather, they are saying, “people who find value in these things should fund them, rather then forcing me to do so.”

It’s not those who wish to withdraw their funding for the library who are “trying to force [their] choices onto someone else,” but rather those who insist on 2/3 of the town continuing to pay for services they neither use nor desire.

The Simple Solution

Ms. Cushing states that the library is a necessity because 34% of the town’s population makes use of its services.  Allenstown, New Hampshire has a population of 4,843.  Which means roughly 1,647 people make use of the town library.

If library services are a necessity for 1,700 Allenstown residents then simply move away from town funding all together and become a private membership organization.

If these people consider the ability to access computers, books, DVDs and internet access a necessity, then why are they unwilling to fund that access themselves?  Ms. Cushing implies that they are unable to afford to do so.  Well, let’s see about that.

The library’s 2013 budget was approximately $52,000.  That means that each of the library’s patrons would need to pay a grand total of $31.57 per year to match what the library currently receives from the town budget.  That’s less than $3 per month.  That’s less than one month of home internet service, and less than the cost of three books or DVDs purchased new.  It’s the cost of two meals eaten out.

If there truly are Allenstown residents who deem the library’s services a necessity and have purchased fewer than two meals outside their homes, and fewer than three books or DVDs in the last year because their budgets are just that tight, then I’d be more than happy to voluntarily donate to cover their annual library fee.  I’m sure others would as well.

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