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Fighting libraries is counterintuitive

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By Will Phillips

If I were to take a poll of all of Kentucky, I wonder how many people would tell me that they had never used a library for anything. My guess is very few. Libraries are the sort of institutions that you use without ever realizing how important they are, and how strange life would be if they weren’t there.

Here in Henry County, the public library provides all sorts of services relating to literacy, teaching children to read, and teaching people how to become more comfortable with computers, smart phones, Facebook, so on and so forth. Libraries are so ingrained in our communities that even (and maybe especially) those who aren’t really big readers use them constantly for the free Internet access.

This leads me to the question of the day: why would anyone want them removed or scaled back?

I’m referring to the ongoing lawsuit against most Kentucky libraries, which if successful, would slash their government funding and return them to a taxing rate from 1979.

Let’s talk a bit about 1979. It wasn’t a bad year, if you can forget that whole hostage crisis in Iran. However, it was 35 years ago. Gas was $.86 per gallon. If you think that a tax rate from 35 years ago will keep anyone afloat now, then you’re as delusional as the people filing this lawsuit.

By the way, this buffoonery got going over in Kenton and Campbell Counties. When the libraries decided to raise the taxes in those districts to increase funding for various projects and because we live in an ever changing and fluctuating economy, the local Tea Partiers decided that they didn’t want the government taking their money. At least, that’s the only explanation I can come up with. They then found a loophole in the statute that declared libraries to be a taxing district. Apparently, nobody explicitly included libraries in that statute, which means that all of those taxes collected over the years weren’t technically legal.

Now, you might ask, why can’t this be fixed with a simple wave of the state congress’ hand? Well, to be blunt, it can, but they haven’t decided that it’s worth the effort. The House passed a bill to include libraries in the state’s budget as a taxing district, but the Senate refuses to do the same on their end. Why? Because it’s in litigation.

That’s their reason. That’s why they’re willing to watch 99 of Kentucky’s public libraries (including the one here in Henry County) potentially dry up and die due to lack of funding.

Well, here’s how I feel about it: It’s idiotic to try and strangle our libraries’ funding when they already can’t complete all of the projects that they have coming down the pike. It’s idiotic to use a technicality in a law that’s three and a half decades old to justify your own irrational hatred of any government institution. And it’s idiotic to drag one of our public services through the mud just because you don’t want to pay a dollar more in taxes.

We live in an age of willful illiteracy. And what’s scary is that it isn’t the kids. It’s not like there are fifth-graders saying they don’t want to read, not even high schoolers. Obviously, those who are in college understand the importance of access to a library, whether it’s to rent a book, use a computer, or otherwise. No, it’s the adults leading this brigade of stupidity.

It’s time that we put it to rest once and for all. This vocal minority of tax haters has been too loud for too long. It’s high time that the rational voice rose above the cacophony.