Libraries get plenty of support
The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the county budget for fiscal year 2018-19 at its weekly meeting on Monday, but not before getting an earful from the public about the importance of public libraries.
"I don't know how you got to this point, but if in your heart you feel that libraries are irrelevant, that says a lot about you," Karen Sinnwell, one of several who spoke out Monday, told the board.
The public hearing was moved to the upstairs courtroom at the courthouse Monday to accommodate the large number of citizens who attended. In recent weeks, there has been much public speculation in regard to the libraries in Chickasaw County, and whether or not the supervisors intend to cut -- or possibly even zero out -- public library funding.
Ten different speakers made a case for libraries to the board, and each speaker received a round of applause for the views expressed.
There were no substantial cuts made to libraries in this year's budget -- which the supervisors approved by 5-0 vote after the public hearing -- although no one commented on whether libraries might be on the chopping block for next year.
"There is $120,000 in this budget for the six county libraries," said chairman Jacob Hackman, who added that the board had received about a dozen letters regarding the issue.
Even though the $120,000 is a slight cut, the large public turnout to the hearing sent a message to board members that any substantial cuts to the county libraries in the future would not be appreciated.
Supervisor Tim Zoll told the public that the board was simply exploring ways to save money.
"It was not my intent, or this board's intent, to not fund the libraries this coming year," said Zoll. "What I did -- I looked at the last six years of your budget requests. I saw that it was a 4.8 percent increase, so I was okay with reducing your budget request this year. With reducing it down to $120,000 this year, your average increase is still 4.1 percent. That's what I was looking at."
Most of the speakers understood that county libraries are funded in the current budget, but wanted to let the board know that they were concerned about future funding.
Virgil Pickar, Jr. told the board about all the free information available at his library that cannot be found online, and the free services not available elsewhere in rural Iowa, and reminded the board of the importance of having a well-informed public.
"A library promotes research, the exchange of ideas, cooperation and self-advancement," he said. "A library is the cornerstone of the community. Without a quality library ... our community suffers. Please support our libraries by funding them at the level they are seeking."
Most of the other speakers echoed Pickar's comments.
Doreen Cook said that a letter she had received concerning funding for public libraries seemed "rash," since it discussed possible cuts in future budgets and didn't seem to apply to the current budget. She conceded, however, that cuts to the library in her community of Fredericksburg would be detrimental to the city.
"If you need money from someplace, I suggest you take it from the raises you gave the other people," Cook said to the board.
Judy Roberson asked the board if they believed in the United States Constitution, to which all board members replied that yes, they did.
"So are rural people less equal than people in the city?" she then asked them. "I think you need to consider that. We are all equal, we should all have the same opportunities and rights to access our libraries."
Diane Day lauded the services local libraries provide for children under the poverty level, and stressed the importance of child literacy. She pointed out that lower-income families do not have the finances to buy books for their children, as their money is spent on essentials such has food and clothing.
"Libraries are a critical asset to those families," Day said. "They make books available to children free of charge, regardless of their income, as well as programming."
For more of this article, see Friday's Tribune.