|saving the libraries|
One of our key indicators of the thoughtfulness of a community is its level of support for bookstores and libraries, those being among the best indicators that a community is educated, values education and learning and encourages it broadly, and is - by virtue of that - better positioned to deal with the realities of a complex future.
So what do we make of the vote reported tonight at Medford and nearby communities, which rejected - 59.3% voting no - a ballot issue which would have reopened 15 libraries in Jackson County.
The libraries were all closed several weeks ago because of drastic cuts in federal timber payments on which the county has been heavily reliant. (Several other counties in the area, including Coos and Curry, are deeply damaged by the federal cuts as well.)
The group Save Our Library System has been organizing to pass a ballot issue to raise enough money to reopen the libraries. It made the case for what libraries mean in a community:
Over 36,000 children and teens participated in reading programs throughout the year.
Each day, an average of 3,000 people visit the library and 770 people access the library from home or business
Last year, Jackson County residents borrowed 1,444,813 items from the libraries. Circulation for children’s items exceeded 434,000.
Many senior citizens and homebound rely on outreach programs to provide them with library materials.
Children read 63,000 books in the summer reading program alone.
Its proposal was not extravagant: "The average property owner will pay about $9 per month for three years to create the bridge to find a long-term solution to library funding."
But Jackson County voters decided, decisively, that libraries weren't worth it. Which raises the question: in that case, why not own up and declare the county rid of them permanently?
We suspect there'll be some reluctance to do that overtly, if only because the only possible interpretation is that, in Jackson County, learning is not much valued, reading is unimportant, and if you can't afford to buy it at the book store, too bad.
But then, today's vote may have made that interpretation unavoidable anyway.