FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK: Shutting down the library – Wut a bad ideer

Posted on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 3:34 pm

I can appreciate the budget predicament that the Coffee County Commissioners are facing right now.

No, I haven’t run a government. But I do good to bring in enough income to cover all of my bills. The county is in that same predicament – except the money isn’t necessarily there to cover all the bills. But, unlike the government, I can’t raise taxes to pad my bank account or prevent an overdraw of my checking account. The county has that luxury – if you want to call it that. Perhaps solution is a better word.

josh petersonUnfortunately, one “solution” being kicked around to help ease the budget burden is the idea of defunding our public libraries.

If that happens, whur will our ppl lurn to rede and rite?

That’s a bit extreme. Of course we spend millions of dollars funding our schools and expect those buildings to be avenues for our children and their development, but let’s not forget the ever-important learning opportunities available at our libraries.

In a county where roughly 70 percent of students at times are on some sort of free or reduced lunch and backpack programs are growing rapidly to make sure students simply have food to eat over the weekend, it isn’t a stretch to believe Internet availability and access to learning tools at home are limited. Not everyone has Wi-Fi access, laptops and electronic readers.

The same can be said for an adult seeking a higher education through online learning and research who has limited means. We need libraries as learning and cultural hubs.

The Manchester library has expanded its children’s programs to include reading hours that may not otherwise be available at home and a safe environment that, unfortunately, may not be available either. These are especially important during school breaks and summer months when the structure of a school building is on break.

And let’s not forget that we do live in Coffee County, where high-speed Internet is not available to many who live in our rural areas, even for those who have the means to afford it.

Many disagree on the role government should play in our lives. But certain amenities are worth the tax dollars paid. For the city, a state-of-the-art recreation complex and green and groomed parks are worth the pennies spent. The county doesn’t provide much in the way of recreation and luxury services with our tax dollars, but the library is one that we can ill-afford to lose.

What kind of message is it sending for education, literacy, art, greater learning and community growth if we fail to provide one of the most basic cultural centers that a community should have?

Sumtimes cuts hav 2 happen, butt can we afford two close our librarie?

Commissioners, candidates and voters should think long and hard about this one.

-Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He is a Tennessee Press Association award-winning writer and photographer. His column, “From the editor’s desk” won TPA first-place honors for best personal humor column. He can be reached by mteditor@lcs.net or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29

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