There are few things in this world that touch me more personally than hearing about the possibility of a library closing, especially in a town that I love so much as Woodland. The shock I felt at hearing the Woodland Public Library might die was devastating.
My mother was a librarian, not only by vocation but by avocation. Books, to her, were a refuge. When she would read, it was nearly impossible to talk with her because she would be so lost in her story. She taught me to love books as well, as is in evidence on the shelves that line my office.
When she died, I cried the day a plaque in her honor went up on the Dunsmuir Library wall. It was beautiful, not only because my mother was recognized for her years of service, but because it was in her library where she loved going.
Woodland, California, is a wonderful town in which I spend a great deal of time. As the consulting music director for the Woodland Opera House, steps away from the Woodland Public Library, I understand the value of history, both my own and of incredible places like the Opera House and the public library.
Since the threat to this amazing source of education, literature, and enlightenment has burgeoned, everyone has learned that this facility has operated without exception since 1891 with a minimum of 40 1/2 hours per week of service, even through the Great Depression. This remarkable truth is significant because no other library in California can claim that tenacity. It was the citizens of Woodland who made that happen for these nearly 120 years.
We know, too, that it is the oldest Carnegie Library in California continuously operated as a public library. What does that mean?
A library was granted money by Scottish-American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, of Carnegie Hall and Carnegie Steel (U.S. Steel) fame, if the library adhered to the Carnegie formula. This formula included very specific criteria, including that the city must:
- demonstrate a need for a public library;
- provide the building site;
- annually provide ten percent of the library’s construction to support its operation; and
- provide free service to all.
Woodland has been accomplishing this feat since Carnegie’s first grant was given to Woodland in 1903. Now, however, the collection of more than 100,000 books and other materials, valued at $5 million is at risk of going the way of the dinosaurs.
This is my greatest fear. With the advent of mass media, including television, movies, and the internet, we are seeing the relinquishment of our reading skills, and more importantly our love of reading, through neglect. Sadly, the closure of Woodland Public Library may be a reflection of our developing patterns of literary neglect in the United States.
Citizens of Woodland have an option, though. This coming Tuesday, June 8, 2010, residents will be able to vote on two measure to keep the library open. A Yes on S vote in tandem with a Yes on V vote will provide the action necessary to save our beloved library.
Yes, it’s a sales tax, but it’s a mere quarter per one hundred dollars. A quarter. 25¢. In this age of financial woes, it’s understandable that some may have their questions whether there should be another tax.
The real question is, to save those 25 cents, are the wonderful people of Woodland unable to help the library avoid:
- cutting the adult literacy program by 42 percent, displacing it from its current location?
- allowing their children to have their 7,200 homework assistance requests unanswered?
- shutting the door on the 800-1,000 daily visitors?
- discontinuing the 31,000 opportunities the community is provided to use the library computers?
- turning away from the library doors over half the population of Woodland who hold the 29,240 library cards ?
- not being available to serve the 5,000 attendees at 175 different library programs?
My brother was born in Woodland. I have felt like an honored guest here for over 12 years. This is my second home. I feel an obligation to speak up about this possibly sad end to a dynamic and honored institution.
On election day, please Vote Yes on S and Vote Yes on V to save the Woodland Public Library.
Honestly, it’s a quarter. Our community’s education is worth so much more than that.
Thank you for sharing your voice on June 8 in support of the Woodland Public Library.
Author’s Note: Since the first posting of this blog, I have been notified that another Carnegie Library in Port Angeles, Washington, as well as my mother’s library in Dunsmuir, California, are also facing the same threat as the Woodland Public Library. It’s not a good day.
(2010) Friends to Friends, Woodland Public Library.
(2010) Retrieved from http://www.carnegie-libraries.org/
(2010) Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_library
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