Saturday, October 17, 2009

Issue 7

First off, let me say that I am very embarrassed to learn that Hamilton County was not providing the bulk of the funding for our library system. We should have been the primary supporters of the local institution all along. This levy will still have our share in the minority but it's a start.
That being said, I believe the library needs to rethink itself for the 21st century.
I hate to agree with Tom Brinkman on things, but user fees do make sense in principle. Where it gets weird is figuring out how much it costs to account for money collected. If it costs $2 to track $1, you have kinda lost the point. Charging a dollar is also about the same as charging 60¢ 20years ago.
Brinkman suggests charging for a premium library service. This sounds nice, it lets wealthier patrons pay more to support the system, a sort of progressive tax. I don't know what you would offer, however. Seems like you would almost have to cut free services to have something "premium" to offer.
One of the great things at the library are the old newspapers on microfiche. When it comes to archiving, physical copy is incredibly important, however for convenience of distribution & search, digitizing these resources and offering them online might be a "premium service".
Some people complain about the content the library has on it's shelves. These people seem to be in the "I Hate Hollywood" camp of modern right wing neoconism. If a recent action film should be removed from the library, should Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes & Fu Manchu books also be taken off the shelves ?
Combining community resources makes a lot of sense. Does every neighborhood in the city need a rec center, a school & a library branch ? The main problem here seems to be the Cincinnati Public School System. They have refused to consolidate with the Recreation department in the past and in this interview on Newsmakers, Library reps tell us CPS was uncooperative with them as well. Why are we duplicating or triplicating (is that a word ?) building administration when we are facing budget shortfalls ?
I believe The Hamilton County Library could do a lot more online. Indeed, it seems like they could be streaming video on demand.
If you have neither fast internet nor cable TV, you can watch City Council meetings on the computers at branch libraries. Branch libraries offer after school programs for kids. While this may come off as babysitting, the fact is with single parent family & double income families becoming the norm and the school systems reluctance to adapt to the realities of society, this is a much needed service. Once again, combining Recreation, School & Library makes sense.
I support Issue 7 but think the library needs to re-evaluate it's role in modern society. Change costs money to implement, unfortunately, and the sudden budget cuts could lead to a loss of library resources that might never be recovered. Money for the Library system will likely shrink and the mantra of "cut waste" has some validity but is not the sole issue facing our libraries today.

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