Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | April 15, 2008

Forget taxes, think libraries

“Taxes are not good things, but if you want services, somebody’s got to pay for them, so they’re a necessary evil.” ~ New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Today is tax day, the deadline for sending complicated forms and painfully large checks to federal and state governments to finish paying last year’s taxes. Those of us who are self-employed also make our first quarterly payments on this year’s taxes today.

Although I understand that taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, I’m also aware of ways that government is frequently wasteful with my tax dollars. When I consider the outrageous cost of the Iraq war or firing a bad teacher, April 15 is painful on many levels.

But one way I feel better on tax day is to remember libraries, the best bargain in government. Libraries increase literacy, reduce information poverty, and bridge the digital divide – and those things make our communities better places for all of us.

Happily, tax day falls in the middle of National Library Week, which runs from April 13-19. It’s a chance to celebrate libraries and the important contributions that libraries, librarians and library volunteers make to our community every day.

In addition to being tax day, April 15 is the day set aside during National Library Week to honor library workers. In that spirit, I’m sharing several reasons – lightly adapted from the American Library Association’s Division of Young Adult Library Services – why librarians are so important, especially after the advent of the Internet search engines like Google:

• Internet search engines locate only web sites, while librarians find all types of resources in any format.

• Internet search engines require you to design your own searches, but librarians help you plan an effective search strategy.

• Internet search engines leave it up to you to sort through a mountain of results, while librarians assist you in selecting information to meet your needs.

• Internet search engines provide no quality control, but librarians always have a Plan B.

• Internet search engines are inanimate web sites with no ability to offer moral support, but librarians are real people who can dispense encouragement.

Besides giving a warm thank-you to your local library staff, another great way to celebrate National Library Week is to join your library’s best friends –your local Friends of Libraries group. These groups raise funds that pay for speaker’s forums, author events, summer reading programs, bestseller collections, and much more. You can learn more about the Friends of the Gilroy Library by visiting You can learn more about the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library by visiting

To celebrate National Library Week, the Morgan Hill Library is offering behind-the-scenes tours of its state-of-the-art book-processing equipment. Tours are offered today, Wednesday, and Thursday at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., and on Friday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Morgan Hill Community Librarian Rosanne Macek credits this equipment with helping her staff cope – with no additional personnel – with astounding increases in circulation and visitors since Morgan Hill’s new library opened last July.

Even if you live in Gilroy, take a tour – it will whet your appetite for how wonderful having a new library in your community can be, and perhaps build political pressure to change the current library reality: Thanks in large part to the city’s recent purchase of Gilroy Gardens, construction of a much-needed new library in Gilroy won’t happen until 2015.

A poll earlier this year suggested that 64 percent of Gilroyans support a library bond measure – just shy of the two-thirds majority necessary for passage under current minority-rules taxation laws. That means that getting some persuadable Gilroyans to visit Morgan Hill’s new facility might make a real difference whenever a bond measure does appear on Gilroyans’ ballots. It might also inspire support for creative ideas like a joint-use facility for a library and an arts center located downtown.

As Mayor Bloomberg noted, taxes are how we pay for public services. One of the best uses of tax dollars is the construction and operation of public libraries. I hope that fast-growing Gilroy finds a way to build a facility sized to handle the city’s current population much sooner than 2015.

“Everything you need for better future and success has already been written. And guess what? All you have to do is go to the library.” ~ 19th-century Swiss philospher Henri Frederic Amiel



  1. […] because of one narrow issue ignores all the good that libraries provide our communities. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Libraries are the best bargain in […]

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