Andersen: Basalt’s library deserves your vote
Let’s start with the following disclaimer: I have a vested interest in Basalt Regional Library. It is a place where I occasionally work as a discussion leader, where I browse for books and movies, where I meet friends and associates, where I feel proud to tour visiting guests. I am vested because I love our library as one of the top amenities in the midvalley.
Basalt Regional Library is far more than the books on its shelves. A good library — and we have a very good one — attracts people who are inspired to explore ideas through a full range of materials, programs and technology in the comfort of a warm and welcoming place.
Look around and you’ll see people on computers doing myriad tasks they can’t do at home. And if they have a question, the staff helps with everything from searching data bases to technical functions, like printing a file or a photograph.
Basalt Library is more than free Wi-Fi and web surfing. It is, to quote Hemingway, “a clean, well-lighted place” that is conducive to quiet thinking, peaceful reading and important gatherings. It is a place where one may connect with the big, wide world while still feeling grounded in rural America.
The community room at the Basalt library is a meeting ground for community in the broadest sense of the term. From political forums to regional planning meetings to bake sales to mini-filmfests to book discussions to concerts, this room echoes the sounds of community with the voices of all ages and backgrounds.
The library administration and staff have created successful outreach to residents, from babies to seniors, promoting cultural unity and ethnic diversity. They offer friendly greetings and seem genuinely pleased when you’re checking out a book, music CD, or film, as if sharing in the pleasure of providing — at no cost – tools for learning and materials for enrichment.
Look around the children’s library where storytimes promote appreciation of words and pictures, where early literacy is a goal for local children who desire to read, to assimilate, to gain critical educational skills.
Check out the “haunted library” at Halloween when librarians dress up as much as the kids do, bringing imagination to the fore. And if you witnessed the “Harry Potter” event, you saw the magic that books and movies bring to children who role model their mythical, fictional heroes in a place where literature is celebrated.
Since 2010, the number of library cardholders has more than doubled, from 9,887 to 22,933. Currently, the library is open and busy seven days a week. And if you stop by for something only to discover it’s closed, you feel as though a vital part of Basalt is closed, too, that the lights are out in your extended living room.
Libraries have changed over the years, from bookish dust bins to dynamic sources of stimulation and enjoyment. In Basalt, part of this comes from the contemporary spin of technology and up-to-date periodicals, but most of it comes from an attractive atmosphere due to the library’s beautiful, efficient and functional architecture.
Basalt Regional Library hasn’t asked for a funding increase in 10 years. In 2006, voters approved a ballot measure to buy the land, build the library of its dreams and fund its operations and programs. This was, for many, the most important public improvement project Basalt has ever achieved.
Now the library is in need, not because of misspending or mismanagement, but because property values have dropped in the past six years to levels inadequate to cover projected operational costs by the end of 2017.
The Basalt Regional Library District is asking for an additional $350,000 per year to be spread among all taxpayers, with a window of seven years. Then it goes back to the voters.
What’s at stake? The value of Basalt Regional Library is equal to the value of the community, where it stands as a top public benefit. Basalt voters who vote for library funding will be voting to maintain public programs, public access to information, education and entertainment.
A “yes” vote for the library is a “yes” vote for Basalt, and for the entire midvalley.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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