Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Libraries

I watched this video the other day and, then, shared it with my local librarian. It's a really good example of what we parents like to call "reverse psychology", wherein, the child wishes to engage in an activity that we believe might not be the wisest or healthiest choice, and we convince them to abandon their goal by agreeing with them - sort of.

The gist of the linked video is that a small, award-winning library was in need of additional funding and was requesting a tax increase of *point* seven percent. Some of the Town's people disagreed with a tax increase to support the library and started a "Vote No" campaign, to which the library supporters responded with their own "Burn the Books" Campaign - with the final message being "Not supporting the library is like burning books."

The campaign was successful. The idea of burning books is so reprehensible. In fact, Heinrich Heine, a 19th Century German poet and writer, is attributed with having said: Dort wo man B├╝cher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen (translated as: Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings).

I'm a small government kind of person. I believe the less the government intrudes in my personal life, the better. I'm not opposed to paying taxes, but it galls me when my taxes are going to support people who recommend legislation that invades my personal space ... or when laws are passed that would require additional resources to enforce those laws, which increases my taxes. It's especially galling when those laws affect only a small portion of the community, but cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Some things are, obviously, important, but it seems to me that we've reached a level of ridiculousness in legislating our lives. Like seatbelt wearing? Seriously? While it may be true that wearing a seatbelt saves lives, why is it the government's business to "save" my life in that way? And now, not only has the government decided that I WILL wear a seatbelt in my personal car, but I, as a taxpayer, am required to pay for the additional law enforcement personnel to monitor whether or not I am complying with the law.

More and more our government seems to get bigger and bigger and the laws more and more invasive as our leaders take on more of a parental role to the populace.

Throughout history, the most effective way governments had of controlling their populace was in limiting the dissemination of information. In the Middle Ages, people weren't taught to read, and because they couldn't read they were dependent on those who could to tell them how to live.

During the cultural revolution in China, anything related to the West was outlawed. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for the government to continue its anti-democracy campaign, if the people were permitted to see the actual way Westerners lived.

Where ignorance is bliss, knowledge is power, and by keeping the people ignorant (as in "unaware", not as in "stupid" - because they are two very different things), governments have a great deal of power, and wield it mercilessly, if they believe it will gain them some advantage.

There is only one publicly funded institution that was, actually, designed to combat total government control, and that's our libraries.

I guess it's not a surprise, then, that the library is also the one institution that is, historically, the most poorly funded, and, when money gets tight, one of the first to see its funding cut.

I'm for smaller government and fewer controls. I'm in favor of smaller schools. I'm in favor of police departments in which the police can worry about true public safety, and not whether or not I'm wearing my seatbelt, or if the plants in my yard are too tall (or the wrong kind), or if I'm drying my clothes outside instead of using an energy-sucking appliance in my house.

But I'm also for preserving and disseminating information, and for that, we need libraries.

Without those ... well, look to past to see our future. It will be very dark.

2 comments:

  1. Well said! I, too, am for small govt, and am starting to get frustrated by all the new building codes - if I don't want to have good insulation in my house why should you care? But, I agree, the library is very important. I know that I could never afford to have the same personal library, so having a public option is wonderful. Although, I wonder if funding was cut, would communities step up to help manage and maintain the library? I would like to think yes, and maybe there would be a fee that people who use the library could choose to pay instead of a tax on people that clearly don't want to use the library. Interesting thoughts to ponder!

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  2. I couldn't manage without our local library but in the UK only book borrowing is free though I end up paying some hefty fines when I forget to return or renew my books even though I can do that on-line. For DVDs and any audio material you have to pay so we don't bother with those.
    Seat belt wesring has been compulsory here since 1987. Everyone accepts it because of lives saved and also, because we all contribute towards the national health service, the amount of money saved on emergency services and subsequent health care. Before the law I helped at an accident where a lad went through a car windscreen. He survived but his face was sliced to pieces. It was not a pretty sight.

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