This fall, voters will decide whether the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library gets to maintain nearly half of its income.
Without this money, the library will have to dismantle services, reduce its operating hours, and likely close some neighborhood branches.
But if voters approve Issue 23 on the county ballot, the library will be able to restore hours, materials, services, and staff that previously were cut. Such an investment is critical at a time when our library is more relevant and heavily used than ever before, and an excellent steward of taxpayers' dollars.
The library seeks a five-year operating levy that includes a renewal of 2 mills and a 0.9-mill increase. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home in Lucas County less than a quarter a day.
State aid once accounted for 75 percent of the library's operating budget. Today, it's 48 percent. We get no more money from Columbus than we received in 1996.
A recent University of Toledo study concluded that for every dollar invested in the library, county residents get three dollars back. Taxpayers receive $136 million worth of services each year from their library.
Our library system served 2.7 million visitors last year. No other cultural, educational, recreational, or athletic organization in the Toledo area can make that claim.
Visitors get free access to books, magazines, research materials, computer instruction and online information, and reference and job-seeking help. The library provides after-school homework assistance, best-sellers in multiple formats — print, audio, downloads, and e-books — movies, music, author events, book clubs, story hours, summer reading programs, and financial literacy classes.
We also offer a place to learn, dream, and reflect, as we have done since 1838. We proudly preserve the human memory and history of our community.
Our system has 19 installations, a bookmobile, a cyber-mobile, and an outreach facility. Our Web site provides — to users across the state, nation, and world — access to online research, downloadable content, reference help, and a vast array of our collections.
More than 70 percent of Lucas County residents have a library card — a rate that communities much larger than ours can only envy. Last year, Toledo area residents checked out 7.2 million items.
We provided nearly a million free, hour-long Internet sessions in 2011. Our resources help a great number of people throughout Lucas County look for jobs and career opportunities.
To serve our youngest customers, we provide early-literacy materials and programs for parents, caregivers, and preschool teachers, so that children can start kindergarten ready to learn. Thousands of children flock to the library after school and on evenings and weekends.
We provide safe spaces for teenagers to explore civic engagement, creativity, reading, writing, and collaborative learning. College and university students are heavy users of the library, as are people who seek second careers, adult learners, small-business owners, lawyers, hard-working adults, and seniors.
The public library is the people's university. Taxpayers support the library for the common good of all the people of Toledo and Lucas County. Please help us continue to serve our community by voting yes on Issue 23.
Clyde Scoles is director of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
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