Supporters save library with ‘book burning party’

In Troy, Mich., an award-winning library found itself threatened by an anti-tax political group (yes, read the tea party) that apparently believes that funding libraries is an egregious example of oversized government.

The conversation about the vote on a small sales tax to help fund the library had been built around the promotion of literacy, the acquisition of books and the availability of the many programs the library offered to everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion or social status.

But thanks to the anti-tax group, that conversation turned into one that had nothing to do with literacy or community. Now the topic was just taxes.

Library supporters had less than a month to act.

So they formed a political group of their own and started posting signs that read thus:



They created tote bags and opened a Facebook page that featured videos of books going up in flames. They placed newspaper ads to line up entertainment for the book burning party.

The response from the community was immediate. People were appalled, and said so. First local, then regional, then national, then international news took up the story. Once the response attracted international attention, the group told people what they were trying to say.

It was this simple: A vote to close the library is like a vote to burn books.

On the day of the vote, more than 300 percent of the projected voters turned out to the polls. Voters supported the tax, and the library was saved.

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Of course, we don’t have to take that kind of radical action to protect our library. Right?

We don’t have to use inflammatory rhetoric and images to convince people how important our library system is and the many gifts it offers our community. Right?

We all know in this county that our library is a joy we treasure and appreciate. It is the one place we can all go and meet on common ground. Right?

Two weeks ago, I wrote, “This past June, our county commissioners reduced the Concord library staff by 25 percent. Now the history librarian is doubling to cover the front desk as well as the Lore Room (local history). Outreach programs that were critical for getting books and library-related programming to housebound elderly are now being handled by a single staff member.”

That last column provoked more than my usual cache of email. It was sad reading.

Last week, according to their news release, the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners suspended its rules on Sept. 2 and voted to standardize hours of operation among all four branches of the Cabarrus County Public Library.

The effect? The move reduces the operating hours of the Concord branch by six hours a week, and the Kannapolis branch by four. One size fits all.

Do all the branches really offer the same range of resources as the Concord branch? Is the traffic the same?

But what is more important, why are hours anywhere, at any branch, being reduced rather than expanded? Why are there fewer employees, instead of more, available to serve our residents?

But we in Cabarrus County don’t have to use inflammatory rhetoric and images to convince people of how important our library system is. Right?

And we all know our library is a gift for us to treasure and appreciate, the one place we can all meet on common ground. Right?