What do former First Lady Pat Nixon, former Michigan Gov. William Milliken, Astronaut Neil Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, Dr. Seuss, and E.B. White all have in common?
They wrote letters to the patrons of Troy Public Library in when it opened in 1971. Marguerite Hart, the library’s first children’s librarian, wrote to numerous public officials and popular writers requesting letters of encouragement to the children at the library.
Thirty years later, my city’s public library is scheduled to close. The threat of closure has survived two elections of misleading ballot information and smear campaigns. City Council meetings ran past midnight with child after child pleading the city council not to close the library. August 2nd, 2011, is its last chance. This time the verbiage is clear: “The city is requesting a 0.7-mill property tax over five years, which will cost about $70 per home. If the millage is passed, the library will be able to stay open 55 hours a week,” (Pittman). I’ve voted the past two times to keep the library open and I will vote the same way again. In the last election the millage was voted down by 51% of voters. The city is divided, full of misleading information. The fog has cleared – and it is now or never.
One group, Safeguarding American Families” is so against raising taxes to pay for the library (even though he’s not even a Troy resident) that he posted signs all around Troy that say, “Vote to Close Troy Library — Book Burning Party Aug. 5,” (Laitner). There is even a Facebook Page for it: Book Burning Party. Although they claim there won’t be actual burning of books, its strong message still gets across. Almost dangerously because it is so extreme, many people will vote yes to save the library because they are so against burning books. Extremes put things into perspective, and I’m not sure just what Tom Ball’s objective is, but he is a radical progressive.
The argument against the millage isn’t that people want to close the library – but they feel the city is misappropriating money that it should use for the library. I agree. However, misappropriation of funds is a different issue entirely – one that should be addressed not with the library as a pawn. For instance, “City Manager John Szerlag makes $247,500 in ‘pay and perks,’” (Laitner). Does he really need “a $130,473 salary, and receives a $75,178 pension for prior service and gets a $5,100 car allowance,”? Absolutely not. Should the city force water restrictions on its residents when it operates an aquatic center? Probably not. But city politics is not a mountain I want to conquer. I just want to keep the public library open.
Is the Troy Public library worth this fight, or is it somewhat antiquated? How many universities still have libraries? All of them. Libraries adapt to changing technology and provide access to computer and internet for those who cannot afford it. For parents who don’t have $149 to buy a kindle and more money for books on top of that price that they will be unable to sell at a garage sale or the higher amounts of money for a Nook, an iPad, or other eReaders, physical books at a public library is still the best choice. The Troy Public Library not only has a large children’s and adult’s section, but a large number of CDs, DVDs, and video games that residents can borrow. They have a small used book store in the basement of the Library where you can buy books for a couple bucks and the money goes towards the improvement of the library. You can reserve conference rooms, grab a snack, or even have lunch.
Troy has already dropped its nature center from its budget. It now operates under a nonprofit and functions as a park (the buildings have closed). I used to volunteer there every Saturday when I was a kid. In March, I helped make maple syrup. I’ve laid down woodchips, cleaned animal tanks, hiked the trails, studied nature, and learned about various subjects. The City has also dropped most the Troy Museum’s funding. This is a wonderful, small village of buildings that have been moved from various locations in Troy and tells its history. I can walk through a log cabin, a one-room school house, a wagon shop, and a church all within a few feet of each other. In college, I interned at the museum one summer.
My childhood is tied to Troy – including the library. I used to walk the mile or so from my house with my family to borrow books. Of course, I took forever to choose a few books. I still do, even when I go to Barnes & Noble.
The Troy Public Library is not antiquated and needs to stay open. It’s currently defining the childhoods of the next generation. And the last thing I want to teach them is that the fundamentals and the past don’t matter. I enjoy reading a book on my iPad, but there is still just something so magical with picking up a paperback book, curling up, and getting ink on my fingers.
Pittman, Asija. “Troy library rediscovers letters that marked its beginning – dailytribune.com.” Daily Tribune : Breaking news coverage for southeastern Oakland County, Michigan. N.p., 6 July 2011. Web. 14 July 2011.
Laitner, Bill. “Plan for a book-burning party is the latest salvo in Troy library battle.” Detroit Free Press. N.p., 14 July 2011. Web. 14 July 2011.