Reader responds to letter writers opposed to library’s tax-rate hike

To the editor:

Two recent letters to the Call expressed opposition to the St. Louis County Library’s proposed tax-levy increase.

People can vote how they want, but I found both letters to be rife with contradictions and misinformation, which I would like to address.

One letter writer laments that the Tesson Ferry Branch will be torn down merely to replace an outdated HVAC system. I’m sure the renovation will entail more than that, and I believe that if you asked most architects, engineers and builders, they would agree that tearing down and replacing an outdated, old structure can be cheaper and quicker than extensive renovation.

The same writer is unhappy that the library wants to provide places to plug laptops in. I don’t know if he has visited a library or classroom lately, but many students these days do their homework almost exclusively on laptops. If libraries are to continue their longstanding, core function of providing a place for quiet study, then they must take this important step into this century.

He also notes that many taxpayers have lost jobs and are on limited incomes.

Yes, and the public library is one of the few places where jobless folks can use free computers and newspapers for their job search, find books on writing résumés and cover letters and consult with experienced professionals who will help them with those things.

Not only that, but families whose incomes are limited can get free books, can replace paid movie subscriptions with free DVDs, can take their children to free story hours and much, much more.

Dollar for dollar, the public library offers a more direct, verifiable benefit to taxpaying families than any other standard municipal service.

Another letter writer asserts that he will not support the levy increase until there are more books on the shelves. “I was under the mistaken impression that libraries were about books,” he writes.

Not mistaken, only dreadfully outdated. The mail used to be delivered by ponies. Telephones used to have dials. Computers were once huge contraptions that filled whole rooms. Times change, and institutions that do not change with the times grow obsolete. Being an avid reader, I can’t help but agree that more books would be nice.

But I suppose he is aware that books are expensive and continue to increase in cost?

In the end, one of these letter writers states that we need to “evaluate what the next generation of libraries should look like.” I would assert that the administrators at St. Louis County Library have done that, and they want us to work with them in getting there.