News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

February 8, 2009

The Off Season: Looking at ‘one of life’s necessities …’

A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life.

– Henry Ward Beecher

Too many years ago, when I was walking the campus at Indiana State in my flannel shirts and blue jeans and with hair that grew over my shirt collar, I used to spend much of my free time between classes at the old Emeline Fairbanks Public Library on North Seventh Street. It was musty and cramped, but I loved its stained glass and cool limestone and creaking floors, and like iron filings being pulled to a magnet, it drew me to its stacks.

I have had a long love affair with libraries; I love the feel of them and the smell of them, and I love their purpose and potential. I was a little saddened when that old place closed up shop and moved, although I understood why, and so I have come to love the building that took its place.

Not unlike Will Rogers, I suppose that most of what I know is what I’ve taken from the newspapers, and lately it seems as though much has been written in this one about the budgetary crisis that the Vigo County Public Library is encountering.

Like me, I imagine that the library has some fat to trim from its considerable frame, and that in these lean times, it, like any of us, has to learn to do a better job of budgeting and reusing and recycling, particularly when tax dollars are at stake.

But libraries are critically important to us, an essential service or utility like water and electrical power, and when we start taking whacks at their foundations with budgetary pickaxes, and I do mean us, the taxpayers who use them and enjoy them, we are going to pay a price sooner than later.

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