The little library that could in Nevada County
March 1, 2010
According to my favorite dictionary and#8212; and#8220;Websterand#8217;s New World Dictionary,and#8221; copyright 1972, which is held together by tape and rubber bands and#8212; one of the definitions of the word and#8220;democracyand#8221; is, and#8220;the common people as the wielders of political power.and#8221; In this day of partisan politics when our representatives in Washington canand#8217;t seem to get anything done, itand#8217;s sometimes hard to remember a major principle upon which our government is based: Power rests in the hands of the people.
Nowhere was the democratic process more evident than during Nevada Countyand#8217;s recent decision to explore outsourcing the management of our public libraries in response to the budgetary shortfall. (I say and#8220;ourand#8217;and#8221; libraries because I think that everyone who uses public libraries shares my sense of ownership and pride in them. Websterand#8217;s defines public as and#8220;of, belonging to, or concerning the people as a whole; for the use or benefit of all.and#8221;)
From strictly a numbers point of view, the management proposal submitted by a for-profit company based in Maryland painted a rosy picture of our public libraries flourishing in their hands. The numbers added up. But lots of other things did not add up. How would a private company make their necessary profit? It was clear that sacrifices to our quality system would be necessary.
What is public about private? According to Websterand#8217;s, and#8220;privateand#8221; means, and#8220;of, belonging to, or concerning a particular person or group; not publicly or generally known; secret.and#8221; Public libraries exist to serve all segments of the population openly and without bias or motive. Private companies have no obligation to reveal the details of their budgets.
Once residents got wind of what was happening, the roars of protest echoed across the county. The five Nevada County Supervisors were inundated, buried, besieged with phone calls, e-mail, petitions, and editorials, and, in all of these, the message was clear: We want our public libraries to stay public.
The People Had Spoken, and continued to demonstrate their commitment. A telethon, donation boxes in the libraries, and a fund-raising effort by the Grass Valleyand#8217;s The Union netted more than $70,000 for our public libraries in just a couple of months.
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On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the Supervisors voted unanimously to continue to manage Nevada Countyand#8217;s public libraries at the county level. They listened. They responded to the and#8220;common people,and#8221; as they were elected to do. We applaud them for keeping our library in the hands of the people.
If you wrote, called, e-mailed, signed a petition, or passed the message on to friends, you were a participant in democracy in action. Thank you.
and#8212; Pam McAdoo is a Truckee resident, an artist and active in library issues in the community