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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: Is This the Best Way to Run Our Libraries?

Last week, to the column Yes, Too Much Government, those responding were overwhelmingly (95%) in favor of reducing the number of entities providing services. 
Specifically, the citizens said that fewer Fire Departments/Districts was the number one issue and finishing a strong second was revenue collectors. Elected officials should take note of this!
Those folks running the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) and those running the Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation (Tri-ED) need to begin a public relations campaign. Citizens want to know more about your funding, governance and purpose. Many of the other institutions were also lacking good PR, but OKI and Tri-ED were numbers one and two in the public’s “need to know more”.
Now, onto this week’s column of Another Voice
I love my library. I have a bumper sticker to prove it!
Even those who sued the Campbell County Public Library for taxation reasons, do not hate libraries! They love their libraries, too! They just want them governed by people who are responsive to the public taxpayers. NKY has three public library systems with twelve locations in Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Counties. Access to a library is not a problem? Tell that to the folks who live in the southern part of Campbell County. 
Some of my fondest memories are in libraries. I have visited and used libraries all of my life. Many a research paper was written using the public library system as well as the libraries at St. Pius X Seminary, Thomas More College, and Northern Kentucky University. I am thankful for the help of these resources.
The Carnegie Library in Newport imbedded in me the sights, sounds, and smells of a library. The Carnegie building was large and impressive. It was built, as all public buildings should be, to last for centuries, made of stone, marble, wrought iron and treasured hardwoods, not of plastic, fiberboard, sheet metal, and drywall. The racks of books reached up to the ceilings. 
There was a hushed quiet enforced by a matronly lady behind the large curved front desk. And the smell? It was a musty, moldy smell of old books; and I loved it.
Tina and I moved to Newport in 1974, right after we were married. The Carnegie became for Tina the go-to place for books as well as for activities for the kids. She would load the two boys up in the red wagon and walk down to the library for story hour which was held on the upper level of the building. It was both fun and educational as one of the library staff would sit in front of the kids and read a children’s book to them while showing them the pictures within. Tina would sit on the main floor and read magazines and books as she waited.
Later in life, as I went through many changes in my employment, it was the library which gave me the needed information to “retool” for another occupation. It was the library (as well as Granville Griffith, my beekeeping mentor) where I learned about beekeeping. It was the library where I researched which breed of chickens laid consistently and which vegetables grew best in NKY soil.   
Tina and I are still avid customers of our library. But, some things have changed. This year, as a Valentine gift for Tina, I purchased a Samsung tablet. Now the magazines that she was reading at the library, come to her via the library’s internet site and something called Zineo. The novels she likes to read are sent via the airways (I guess that is how they come) to the tablet and she downloads them using something called ePub Reader.
When I want to know what fertilizer is best for blueberries, because I had heard that the blueberry likes acidic soils, I look for the information on the internet. I don’t even think about going to the library to research it. 
We still frequent the Campbell County Public Library, but not so much anymore! We use a virtual library through the Campbell County Public Library’s sites for magazines and books. And information comes from research on the internet, not at the library.
So, does that mean that the library as we know will go the way of the buggy whip and hard contact lenses? What purpose does the library of 2015 serve? 
I have observed the patrons using the library in Newport. The folks use the computers extensively. Sometimes, there is a waiting list for their use. Items are still being checked in and out, though movies seem to be checked out more than the books (maybe that is why Blockbuster is gone?). 
I checked out the three libraries’ websites. Each library has an extensive activities/events list on their webpages: Campbell County, Kenton County, and Boone County
Interested in finding something to do, you should check them out! The activities range from concerts to yoga to paint and bake ceramics. No, I’m not kidding here! I chose three events:
  • At the Boone County Main Library there will be a concert performed by The Rick and Marv Band.
  • At the Kenton County Erlanger Branch there will be a free beginner class for yoga.
  • At the Campbell County Cold Spring Branch there will be Paint and Bake Ceramics to help us make Valentine's Day magnets.
This sure doesn’t look like, sound like, or smell like the library that I knew. Libraries have definitely changed! Is this a library or a community center?
Do you want to get involved in your library, be on your county library board and help make those decisions involving use of your libraries and your tax dollars? Want to help make decisions on the tax rates the library charges? 
Let me tell you: It is not easy to get in on this! Here is how you can get involved (from the Kentucky Revised Statutes which govern public library districts): 
“The (existing library) board shall recommend two (2) persons committed to the provision of library services to the Department for Libraries and Archives, for each vacancy. The names shall be forwarded to the Department for Libraries and Archives and the state librarian and commissioner shall recommend those names to the county judge/executive. The county judge/executive shall immediately, with the approval of the fiscal court, make his selection from those recommended.”
Sounds both elitist and incestuous at the same time, right? The existing library board decides who is to be sent on to the State Librarian who then determines their level of commitment/knowledge of the suggested appointments. The State Librarian then sends his approved name(s) on to the judge-executive of the county who then appoints that person with the approval of the fiscal court. And this is representation of the public taxpayer? Or maybe, this is exactly what our founders fought against: Taxation without Representation.
What do you think? Is this the best way to run the libraries? Is there a better way? This week’s survey is simply true and false questions. Click here.
For more of Ken Rechtin's Another Voice, click here.
The views and opinions expressed here in “Another Voice” do not reflect the views or opinions of The River City News, its owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of Ken Rechtin. If you wish to make comment to Another Voice, Ken can be reached via email at [email protected] or you may leave a comment here. All rights to use of Another Voice in any fashion are retained by Ken Rechtin. Please contact him for any use of his columns.