Library expansion a waste of money
The persistent letter-writing campaign by proponents of library expansion has failed to make the case for funding in the form of additional taxes. Putting aside the controversy about architecture and open space, the library of this century is not brick and mortar, endless stacks of books and impressive woodwork. Rather, it is as thick as a keypad and seamlessly spans the knowledge of the world via ultra-high-speed Internet connection. A library functions as a repository and disseminator of knowledge, and no traditional facility can keep up with the contemporary expansion of erudition.
Want to renovate and enlarge the children’s library? Fine. Want to expand meeting room space? OK, but with the city-owned art museum building emptying out soon, Aspen can have a nifty stand-alone conference facility. But that is all stuff of the past century; we already have a suitable building for it and ample reserves in the endowment to pay for it and do not need more gilding.
Lost in the discussion are all those dinosaur collections taking up space in the library, i.e., the little-used and shrinking magazine collection (think websites with instant updates and streaming video); the books on tape (think Kindle or Nook); the music and movie collections (think the iTunes store). Clear it all out, and put in a mini-server farm for AspenNet.
As a colleague pointed out, the library can buy iPads or eReaders for every man, woman and child living in Aspen and still have $3 million left over. If we are to have a 21st-century library, it will not be an impressive physical edifice but rather a knowledge portal built around a free, ultra-fast wireless network. That is proper direction for the city and the county; lobbying for more bricks is regressive and a waste of money and is most certainly not worthy of more taxes.
Neil B. Siegel
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