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Letter to the editor: Library offers bang for the buck

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By The Staff

I read with interest the opinion of Chris LeSuer (News-Herald, Oct. 14) regarding the rise in our tax bill. He seemed concerned that for every $100,000 home an extra $13 a year ($108 total) would be collected to support the library. Mr. LeSuer wanted his fellow Owen countians to be aware of this fact, stating that they could then form their own opinion as to the justification of the tax.

I also would like to present some facts. Facts concerning the vital part the library plays in the economic and educational growth of Owen County. Scripture tells us that one side may seem right until the other side is heard. Mr. LeSuer emphasized that one of the reasons he moved to Owen County was to “get away from excessive taxes.” First it might be a good idea to define the word “excessive.” According to The American Heritage Dictionary, the word “excessive” is defined as: “exceeding what is normal, proper, or reasonable ... extravagant.” To determine if the library was requesting monies that exceeded what is normal or reasonable, I contacted the PVAs of the four counties of Gallatin, Grant, Henry, and Trimble, which surround Owen, and asked if the libraries in those counties had increased their taxes from 2008 to 2009. Every county did so, some asked for a little less than Owen and some more.

 Perhaps many aren’t aware of some of these facts about our library, and until recently neither was I.

• During the most current fiscal year of June 2008-June 2009, the library had 57,719 visitors, just over 158 visits a day.

•  The past 10 years, the number of computer sessions in the library has grown from 2,203 in 1999 to 20,447 in 2009. That’s a tenfold increase, and while many in Owen County do own computers, approximately 30 percent of the population do not. Some who have a computer in their home cannot get high speed Internet, so they use the library for this service.

• The library offers free programs all-year long. During the summer, a summer reading program is well-attended, and for those children who aren’t in school yet, a weekly preschool reading hour is presented. The library outreach  provides books for those who are unable to visit the library. And other free programs include: computer, painting, and beadworking classes, puppet shows, and entertainers from across the country. If Owen county citizens had to individually pay for every item borrowed or event attended last year, it would have cost an estimated $1.6 million.

The fact is if you had to purchase a hardbound book at a bookstore it would cost $20-25. For $108 a year, you could buy four to five books. On the other hand for that $108 you can borrow any number of hardbound books from the library. A DVD costs about $2 to rent. Approximately one DVD a week could be  rented for the $108 a year, yet the same amount of money given to the  library provides you with a huge and varied selection of DVDs and you can check out many more than just one a week.

When I divided that $108 a year into 52 weeks, I came up with approximately $2.08 a week in tax money for the library. That amount of money could not buy a gallon of gas, my friend, or even a Big Mac.

The library director, Jennifer Nippert, and her staff diligently search for grant money and other income sources so the tax burden is not too great for the people of the county. Perhaps, after all the facts are presented, it will be apparent that a good library is required not only to meet today’s  needs of Owen County communities, but also to provide those vital services to future generations.

 

Bonnie Strassell

Poplar Grove