A proposal to divert 40 percent of the tax revenue dedicated to the New Orleans Public Library to other programs is on the ballot on December 5. New Orleanians should vote NO on Parishwide Proposition No. 2, known as the Libraries and Early Childhood Education Millage.
Where does the idea that libraries are “extras” that can be defunded come from? Perhaps, the ease of purchasing books in this digital age has convinced people that libraries are obsolete, now that “everybody” can use an app to order a book. This assumption could not be further from the truth.
In this age, citizens increasingly make false claims and poor decisions based on internet lies. Librarians are trained to teach people how to discriminate between reliable and fraudulent materials and guide those doing research. In a world where the odds are stacked against those who lack information and the tools discriminate between sources, we need more libraries and librarians, not fewer.
In the New Orleans Public Library system, citizens from every walk of life can find all kinds of books. We can research city archives for free. When we are done with a book, we give it back so others can use them. We don’t hoard, we share.
Public libraries are evidence that our democratic society once believed in the dignity and worthiness of everyone’s mind, intelligence, ability to apprehend the truth and act upon it, find delight, and achieve discernment. In our increasingly divided society, economic inequality is extreme. Lack of money limits access. Many public services are increasingly offered on a gradient scale, in which the poor get lower levels of support – as in health care and, more often than not, public education — while the wealthy get superior treatment. Libraries counter these tendencies.
Libraries are islands of egalitarianism and trustworthy information in an increasingly unequal, ill-informed world. They nurture a democratic, knowledgeable society. We can attend interesting lectures; bring a child to story time; search for a job on a computer; take GED classes; or reserve a beautiful room for club meetings—all at no charge. We can attend a reading by the best local writers in the lovely facilities in the Rosa Keller or Latter Library without buying a ticket.
Many aspects of our common home would be improved if we treated our resources the way libraries have always treated theirs and served each other the way libraries serve us. Protect our libraries. Vote no on December 5.
Moira Crone is a novelist and painter, and former director of the MFA Creative Writing program at LSU. She lives in the Marigny.
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