A library is more than a collection of books. It is a source of reading and listening materials of abundant variety. It is the people who help the library patrons. And it is a building. California’s local library systems do not have enough buildings to serve the public adequately, and many of those they do have are badly in need of repair.
Proposition 85 on the California ballot would provide $75 million in bond revenues for library construction and renovation.
For example, the Los Angeles County Public Library serves an area that has grown by 400,000 people since 1980. Yet no libraries have been added to the system. That, the backers of Proposition 85 say, is like adding a city the size of Long Beach without building more library space.
Other libraries need refurbishing. The second floor of Palmdale’s library, which contained the entire fiction and foreign-language collection, was found unsafe because the floor couldn’t support the weight of all the book stacks. The library also doesn’t meet seismic standards and lacks adequate fire exits.
The opposition to the bond issue is downright silly. The members of the Libertarian Party who submitted the argument against this proposition for the state’s ballot pamphlet complain that poor and lower-income people pay taxes for services that are used by people who are better off. No one can testify better than a person of limited means about the need for a free place to read the latest books and newspapers. The Libertarians also complain that cities and counties run libraries and the state should have no responsibility in this area. In fact, it is state law that provides for local public libraries; local communities would continue to operate the libraries, and the bond money would give them better buildings in which to provide those library services.
Libraries have been neglected over the last decade as other services have demonstrated more pressing life-and-death needs. It’s time to remember the contribution of libraries to the life of the mind. Vote YES on Proposition 85.