By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
There is a lot of work that goes into this newspaper, but one of the things that makes it worthwhile is when people in the community tell me how much it means to them that Carter County still has a print newspaper. It’s nice to know that you, and your work, are appreciated.
But if you appreciate this newspaper, then you should appreciate the library too.
I’m not saying this because I use both our library locations as an office and writing space when I’m between assignments and need a place to stay productive. In fact, as I write these words I’m sitting in the otherwise empty Olive Hill branch on a Monday – when the library is closed to the public.
I’m not saying this because the library staff has been wonderfully helpful, at everything from accepting letters to the editor to recording public meetings for us when we have other engagements. (Thanks Mattie!)
I’m saying this because it was the public library that instilled in me a love for reading, which blossomed into a love of writing. That love of writing, and a determination to make it my career no matter what, took me on a long and convoluted path. But it was a path that eventually brought me home to eastern Kentucky, and put me in Carter County at the time when the county needed a newspaper, and I had the background and experience to bring them one.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the public library system is responsible, in large part, for setting me on that path. So if it hadn’t been for the library, you might not be reading this today.
I try not to take that for granted, and I hope you don’t either. Because the moment we take our libraries – or anything important to our communities – for granted is the moment we risk losing them.
While I, and the newspaper, would fare just fine if our local libraries closed, some folks might not. Some kids might lose a safe place to find respite and peace in a book. They might not have access to the internet resources they need to research a paper or class project.
People without access to a printer might struggle to print legal documents or resumes for a job hunt. They might not be able to use the internet to submit their hours to be paid for work they’ve done.
People coming home to document their roots might lose access to already sparse genealogical records and local histories.
The community could lose a little piece of its soul.
Everyone loves the idea of the library. Everyone loves to pay lip service to that idea. But when it comes time to find the money to pay for it, their lips are suddenly sealed.
The county asks the cities to help, the cities point back to the county, and the libraries continue to fall into disrepair. They continue to operate with insufficient staffing. The staff continues to consider pay cuts – in an already tight economy – just to keep the buildings open.
At some point, something has to give. No one wants to suggest a new tax, especially in an election year. But anything worthwhile has to be paid for. The library cannot continue to operate with the piecemeal, ad hoc funding system that has been foisted upon them. They are eventually going to need to be funded through a county-wide tax. And they’re going to need you to support it.
This is not a charity. This is an investment, that benefits all parts of our community – from the youngest to the oldest, and everyone in between who walks through those doors. And anyone who walks through those doors, no matter how much money they do or do not have in their pocket.
The library is a place to check out books, sure. But it’s so much more. It’s a path out of poverty. It’s a path to growth and self-reliance. It’s a path to giving back.
Doubt it? Just look at the newspaper in your hand. You wouldn’t be holding it without them.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org