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Published: Sunday, 11/8/2009

Love of libraries

LIBRARIES change lives, then-Sen. Barack Obama told the American Library Association in 2005. Ohioans voted to keep changing lives across the state on Tuesday by approving, despite the lousy economy, an amazing 30 levies to support libraries.

Few people would argue, even in the Internet Age, that Andrew Carnegie, who funded thousands of libraries, including more than 100 in Ohio and five in Toledo, was wrong to call libraries an unequaled "cradle of democracy" or dispute Norman Cousin, the late editor of Saturday Review, who said a library is "a place where history comes to life."

Libraries also meet more practical needs, especially in a down economy. At times like these, people flock to libraries to use their resources to look for work, prepare resumes, learn new skills, and even apply for unemployment benefits.

But no one would have been surprised had joblessness, local and state budget deficits, and increasing calls for charitable giving to feed clothe, and shelter a growing number of Ohioans made voters hesitant to raise their own taxes to fund local libraries facing huge cuts in state support.

Instead, however, community after community, including Port Clinton, Upper Sandusky, and Williams County, said yes, libraries are so important we're willing to invest some of our already scarce resources to keep them open.

In all, 30 out of 38 levy and bond issues were approved by voters (one is facing a recount). The 38 ballot issues constituted a state record for libraries, and having about 80 percent of them pass was exceptional.

But then, people are full of surprises.

Perhaps voters, before casting their ballots, were reminded of this: "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."

If you're not sure who said that, you can find the answer at your local library.

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