Thursday, November 3, 2016

My letter to the editor about the Meridian library bond

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Idaho Press-Tribune that was published on October 31, 2016. It was about the upcoming bond issue for the Meridian, Idaho public library district.
It said:

Meridian residents should consider voting for their library bond issue

Ron Johnson’s Oct. 21 letter to the editor, 'More Library Buildings? Why?' and Wayne Hoffman’s Oct. 21 guest opinion 'Big Tax Proposal In Meridian Includes Unneeded Library Projects' offer the silly excuse that people don’t need any more library facilities since there now are ebooks (so people needn’t go there), and anyhow it’s all out there for free on the Internet. Some research would show that’s not right.

Look up the latest fiscal year 2015 Idaho Public Library Statistics report from the Idaho Commission for Libraries. For Meridian, page 41 shows a total physical circulation of 1,063,788 items. The annual electronic materials circulation was just 97,372 — or only 9.2 percent of the physical total. Annual total attendance was 485,102, and just for reference 43,645. For a city of about 90,000, that’s over five visits per person, so people still are going to the library and physically are taking out almost 12 items per person (or roughly one per month).

My opinion is that public libraries are worth expanding. I have lived in Boise, and live in Ada County. I’ve been to the Meridian library a few times when I needed to borrow a book and couldn’t wait for it to come via interlibrary loan. In my Joyful Public Speaking blog I have written a lot about research, such as my post titled Going Around Pesky Periodical Paywalls By Using Databases From Your Friendly Local Public Library.

Richard Garber, Boise”

In that letter I made the circulation figure of about a million items per year relate to residents of Meridian. It is equivalent to everyone in the city taking out an item each month. (In a blog post on July 12, 2016 I had discussed How to make Statistics Understandable).  

Wayne Hoffman had said:

“I grew up in a rural town in Arkansas, where there were no libraries.”

My childhood was far different from his deprived one. I grew up in Pittsburgh, a mile and a half from the main Carnegie Library. It was one of that city’s cultural jewels. Their Science and Technology department had a stellar collection of reference books and magazines, particularly about the steel industry.

When I was a graduate student studying metallurgy at Carnegie Mellon University, I remember finding a reference to an article in a 1918 issue of a Swedish magazine published in Stockholm about iron and steel called the Jernkontorets Annaler. The Carnegie Library had a copy, so I put in a call slip for that volume and waited for it to be retrieved from the closed stacks. A few minutes later I looked with awe at a series of high-magnification optical microscope photos that revealed the branching tree-like structure of pearlite.      


The Meridian library bond was defeated. 59% voted for it, while 66.7% would be required to win.

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