By Bruce Weide, Hamilton
At age ten I expressed interest in a library card. “But they cost $5,” said my mother. End of discussion – access denied. Though I didn’t know it at the time that exchange marked the beginning of an appreciation for the importance of libraries. Four decades later, I volunteered to serve as a trustee of the Bitterroot Public Library. I did that for ten years because I’m wildly enthusiastic about libraries. Also, though a library card has always been free at the Bitterroot Public Library, I wanted to ensure that no child, or adult, would ever be denied access due to lack of money.
The free public lending library is an American institution. Like national parks and public lands it’s an aspect of our nation’s character that invokes pride and patriotism in me. Access to library services is a privilege shared by all Americans. However, enjoying this unique benefit comes with a condition; if you don’t support your local library the privilege goes away.
In the primary election you’ll be afforded the opportunity to show your support by voting YES for the library levy. (Due to the ongoing pandemic, we’ll being voting by mail.) The last time the public voted to increase library funding was 1998. In the 22 years since then, the Bitterroot Public Library’s district (consisting of the Hamilton, Victor, and Corvallis school districts) grew more than 20% which increased demands on services. Every day 225 people (1/3 children) use a 21st century library that operates with 20th century funding.
Many people equate libraries with checking out books but that’s only one benefit. At our library you can also check out movies, music, e-books, peruse the Montana Shared Catalog that allows you to borrow 400,000 items from 34 libraries, use a computer, access the internet, attend adult and children’s programs, and much more.
Our historic, century-old Carnegie library needs a new roof. In order to provide for that and ensure that you can continue to use of all the services offered by our library, we need to vote YES. The levy increase costs only $4.05 per $100,000 valuation on a landowner’s property tax. In other words, check out one book, DVD, CD, e-book, or audiobook and the cost savings more than covers your share of the levy.
Every time I step into our library, I feel rich. I look around and think “All of this is ours.” I understand the rapid spread of covid-19 renders us uncertain and frightened. Nevertheless, you can count on me voting YES to support our library; I hope our community can count on you to do the same.