WELCH: Close the book on library snobbery

Some of my very first memories include walking — or toddling — hand-in-hand with my mom toward the local library.
Nov 11, 2013

 

It was a small library back then, brick painted over with white to give it a facelift well after its 70th birthday. I remember thinking about how the two-room public library had to be magical, with little elves coming out from behind the towering stacks each night.

Why magical? Because books transport us all — as if by magic carpet or a bewitched wardrobe — to other worlds, to explore new things, new ideas; to meet new people and creatures.

Books are magic.

To a farm girl whose dad worked at the only factory in town, money got tight sometimes, and buying shelves of books wasn’t an option for my hard-working parents. So, the library was the place to be for a child with a big imagination and a love for the written word, a love that was fostered years before I could read myself.

Skip forward three decades, and it seems my affair with words has turned into a passion, a vocation and a way to influence others.

Usually we write our opinions as the editorial board, but I felt so strongly about this particular topic that I chose to write a column instead. I am a believer in the power of libraries, and the power of books.

These days, libraries provide so much more as they’ve had to adapt to our constantly evolving world to provide computer access, classes, seminars, activities, audio-visual materials and e-books. 

Perhaps now, more than ever, access to libraries serves as an equalizer for all people. They provide access to the world for those who may not have computers at home. They allow children to borrow books they might not otherwise ever be able to read. They provide guidance and resources to adults seeking information about finance, genealogy or potential careers. They are the heartbeat of any strong community.

So, when I became aware, through the reporting of one of the Tribune’s fine reporters, Marie Havenga, that Crockery Township residents don’t have full access to a library, I was astounded. Had we somehow been transported back to 1940s Appalachia?

Clearly, there must be some mistake. This is 2013, in West Michigan, and there are two local libraries — Grand Haven's Loutit and Spring Lake — that have countless books on rows and rows of shelves. They’re beautiful new libraries and almost as magical as I recall my hometown two-room library to be.

Why, then, can’t all area residents have access and be able to check out materials?

Apparently, it’s more complicated in this neck of the woods.

 A group of Crockery Township residents have banded together to try to get a levy on the ballot that would provide access to Spring Lake District Library and related network of libraries.

The only two statutory hurdles to jump are the library board’s approval and the approval of voters.

But then there’s the hurdle that Crockery Township residents say they face each day — one said it is like having the “big scarlet ‘C’ for Crockery” painted on her forehead. If approved by all involved, Crockery residents would be paying less for library services than those who live in Spring Lake or Spring Lake Township, which is a divisive matter for some.

It seems, however, that snobbery over library resources goes against the essential foundation upon which libraries were built. If the township is willing to pony-up property tax money to help support the library and its network, then we should all welcome its residents with open arms.

Had my hometown library not opened up its doors to an inquisitive and insatiable reader from a similar township back in the 1980s, then I wouldn’t be who I am today. I am grateful for library services, and ask our community members to open their hearts and work to increase access to our surrounding neighbors.

 

 

 

 

Comments

Wolverine49457

My granddaughter counts the SL library as one of her favorite places, especially during Ms. Elizabeth’s story time! The local library has so much going on and the bulk of it presented and staffed by volunteers or barely compensated staff. So much to learn and do with Children and Grandchildren it should be the center of town, the library is one of those places operated by folks out of passion.

christopher

I am not sure why it is "snobbery" to ask that Crockery Township residents pay the same amount as Spring Lake Village and Spring Lake Township residents. I am a Spring Lake Township resident and I welcome ... with open arms the residents of Crockery Township. They are part of our community. I actually love the rural feel and the people of Crockery. I do however believe that it would be just for all involved to pay an equitable amount toward the operation of the library.

I would love to hear some in-depth reporting (sorry if I had missed this previously ... if it was previously reported) on why there will be a disparity in the two tax rates.

SLmomx3

Was Crockery invited to vote on the same proposal for the library as SLT and the village? Did they turn down the invitation to build this library with SL?

There was a large cost to build this library and Crockery residents cause wear and tear on the library just as SL residents do. The building, carpet, books, and computers all suffer wear and tear from use. If they want equal usage rights, why can't they pay for it like the SL residents do? Why should SL residents have to pay a very high cost for the library and the Crockery residents only have to pay one-seventh of the rate for the same rights? I have no problem if Crockery residents want to use the library but they should be willing to pay equally.

bigdeal

Welcome to 2013 ms. Welch. Pay to play, as in anything.
Pretty sure way back when you were young and libraries were free for alls, someone paid taxes you never knew about to support it.

I realize you did not have the pleasure of growing up here, but don't know if you knew Crockery twp HAD their own library because of a dedicated few, and decided to not write grant proposals to continue it. Ask them about that decision and get back to us.

Cetainly they should pay the exact same rate as SL residents for access, nothing less. Maybe Holland libarary would let you have access cheaper.

winston

Typical Tribune: stir it up with a headline, offer a folksy story, but ignore the facts. Every child deserves access to books but moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, and civic minded neighbors need to pay for the access. Just as happened with SL township.

ruserious

Common sense should come into play at some point; you will have to wait until that time arrives. Anybody using a service should pay the same for that service as everyone else. Do Crockery Twp. residents pay less at the local gas pump, how about the restaurants in Spring Lake and Grand Haven? When they go to Meijer or Wal-Mart are their totals reduced by a percentage?

You can't discriminate against the home team in favor of the visitors without some very heated debate, or at least you shouldn't be able to. You people are a hoot!

deeg

Ms Welch you certainly have your nerve calling all Spring Lake and Spring Lake Twp. residents snobbs. I work, vote, buy local and pay plenty of taxes. Crockery Twp. residents had a library, they voted to let it close. Spring Lake residents voted to increase their taxes to create a new library for our residents. Crockery Twp. residents can have the same access to our library when they pay the same amount I do. Anything less than that is unacceptable to me. You can resort to name calling and insults, that's fine but it certainly won't help your socialist cause.

theQuin

There is obviously a lack of knowledge here about how district library funding works. It has nothing to do with "snobbery." Ms. Welch should ask a librarian to research it for her - and she should also find out the definition of "district library." The Loutit Library, for instance, was once a department of the city of Grand Haven. It became a district library when a dedicated millage became its main funding source. This is not unique to "this neck of the woods." The Kent District Library. for instance, serves many communities, and is comprised of 18 branches and a service center. All municipalities involved fund library service through a millage, and the residents of those communities that do not must pay for service on an individual basis.
I am not sure that service has to be equal per municipality. Pehaps rates are based on population. But - for sure - it is only fair that each municipality that gets library service pays for it.
And by the way, anyone can enter a library and read within its walls. Anyone can use the online catalog and reference materials. They can even attend programs - those that cost, and usually those that are free. So really, the library community has "opened its heart," and there is equal access to library use for our neighbors. People who live in non-paying communities simply cannot take books out.

guard1193

As a former staff member of SLDL, Crockery Township residents have to pay more to possess a non-resident card. I think this is unfair and we should pay the same amount as Spring Lake residents, not less. I was not "barely compensated" for my work. I was paid well for the work that I did and I absolutely loved working there. I'm not sure if it's offered anymore, but I was able to get a free sticker from my university library that allows me to check out materials from any library in Michigan...

Madmax12

It is not snobbery to ask others to pay their fair share. This same idea is plaguing America since Obama got into office and is fundamentally turning the USA into a welfare nation. Now we have activist coming out of the woodwork upset that they can't have other peoples money.

Madmax12

It is not snobbery to ask others to pay their fair share. This same idea is plaguing America since Obama got into office and is fundamentally turning the USA into a welfare nation. Now we have activist coming out of the woodwork upset that they can't have other peoples money.

 

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