A few facts about libraries:
- provide equal access to information for people of all ages and backgrounds
- promote lifelong learning and literacy
- preserve our culture and history for future generations
— American Library Association
It’s a fortunate statistic for Diamondhead that 50% of its residents have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. Clearly it deserves to have an excellent library, the mark of a cultured community. Ours, the East Hancock branch, needs and deserves our support.
East Hancock’s collection is pitifully small for a branch with its numbers of registered users who are nearly all Diamondhead citizens. Funding provided by the county is sufficient to pay only for its operation, not for additional materials. Maybe the county should be pressured to provide more to all the branches, but meanwhile, Bay St. Louis and Waveland have contributed additional funding for years to improve collections and services at their branches, largely because their citizens have demanded it. Diamondhead, with its unusually well-educated citizenry, should certainly do the same.
Last week the library system’s executive director asked the city to contribute $10,000 to buy books, CD audio books, and DVDs for the East Hancock Library. The questions that followed were discouraging. Councilman Rech wanted to know about the county’s role in funding, Councilman Knobloch asked why Hancock has more libraries per capita than Harrison County, Mayor Schaefer wanted to know whether the school district should or could contribute. Councilman Lafontaine was the only one showing full support but he won’t be on the board when the vote is taken September 1.
Meanwhile, if you look at the city’s FY2016 budget up for public hearing tomorrow night (Wed., Aug. 26, 6 pm at City Hall), they propose increases over last year’s spending of more than $305,000 on administration, more than $202,000 on police, and more than $1,000,000 on public works. That certainly sounds like they could find $10,000 for books. If nothing else, there must be grants available.
The intrinsic value that a well-stocked and serviced library brings to any community should be self-evident, but there is also a significant cost/benefit ratio that it provides. A University of Pennsylvania study found that Philadelphia’s public libraries added $698 million in home values, generating an additional $18.5 million in property taxes to the city and school district each year. Studies elsewhere have found that for every $1 spent in taxpayer money on libraries, communities benefitted per capita by $6.54 in Florida, $4 in Wisconsin, an estimated $5 in Vermont, and an estimated $2.38 in Indiana. In other words, for every $1 that is cut in taxpayer money, businesses and households spend from $2.38 to $6.54 more from their own pockets.*
We are lucky to have an attractive facility, well run by a dedicated and helpful staff, offering free use of materials, computers, meeting room, and other services to all. It’s time we built the kind of collection and services Diamondhead can be proud to have. Call or write the mayor and council today and tell them to provide the money. Having an excellent library is not just the county’s responsibility — it’s ours as well.
The vote is scheduled for September 1. Contact info:
Mayor: Tommy E. Schafer, IV 493-3363 firstname.lastname@example.org
At Large Ernie Knobloch 255-0546 email@example.com
Ward 1 Joe Lopez 424-5555 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 2 (until Sept. 1) Blaine Lafontaine 493-8283 email@example.com
Ward 3 Thomas A. Sislow 222-5376 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 4 Ron Rech 342-2061 email@example.com