Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New library

Many people rationalize their desire to use public money for libraries under the ruse that libraries are for the poor and the needy who can't afford to purchase books or computers on their own dime. At least in Howard County, it is quite clear that our libraries are not intended for the poor, they are in fact intended to flaunt the wealth of tax base to please a concentrated interest of people.

Take, for instance, the new Miller Branch Library. The library will cost $30 million to build. $30 million- that is really quite amazing. One of the features of the new library will be a "teen center" that will be designed to look like an iPod. Yes, an iPod. For $30 mil, you could probably purchase every teen in the county multiple iPhones. I don't have a problem with rooms designed to look like iPods, but it seems like a strange way to spend public tax dollars.

Other features include an organic garden, a water feature, and an arched stone wall built to resemble a bridge. Yay for helping the poor!


Minks said...

Touché! Yea, ok, this one is a pretty good example of the point(s) you are trying to make. Only 3.90% of you are below the poverty line. Very affluent county indeed!. This does force one to look at other factors driving the desire to have expensive tax funded libraries in high-income neighborhoods.

I did mention earlier that in rich communities libraries play the role of country club (in some cases tax funded to boot, which kinda irritates me too)... but there is another concept at play here.. this is a tough one to grasp, even I will admit that... I will take a stab at it....

Reason #2 for public libraries (if low income is proven false):
Basically it goes like this, if you have a lot of nice public facilities (parks, libraries, water parks, jogging trails, rec centers) then these will draw people to move to your community. This in turn increases your tax base (owners/businesses and workers move to area), increasing the wealth of your community. Simultaneously these facilities decrease your child delinquency rates (less crime more reading), so they are viewed as an asset to any neighborhood no matter the demographic.

Basically, the prettier your county, the more people want to date her... which is good... right? Your county is wearing a $30m tiara. Jewel of the community if you will.

There is a business term that describes this phenomena, I cannot think of it offhand... and it is driving me nuts. =P


Now, you will be quick to point out that only 1 million people visit the library a year, but keep in mind the library is only one factor of many that cause people to move to an area. Jobs, schools, roads, weather, etc. all play a factor. To several *million people a year, your libraries play a role in their lives.

Was that a bond library or a pure no-choice-in-the-matter $30m library?

*technically 1m visitors a year, not people, as many visitors are the same people coming on different days. This number I always found to be a bit misleading as the impact to the community is better measures in unique visitors per year and not the same person coming 30 times in a year.

Freemarket said...

Minks, I am not the least bit persuaded by your argument but I am curious about something: is there ever a situation, in your opinion, in which it does not make sense to publicly subsidize libraries?

Anonymous said...

I can go along with the nicer community image and maybe even the culture, keeping kids focused on learning and maybe even housing values. But growth is never profitable for taxpayers. It always costs as growth is subsidized by way of infrastructure, schools, very expensive items when resident numbers go up. Tax base must increase for all to cover the cost of development, the new residents do not add enough to pay for the development.

Freemarket said...

How does a library keep kids focused on learning? That's just silly.

Although, you raise a good point in that libraries in this county are pumping up real estate values and therefore contributing to the lack of "affordable" housing. Housing costs are one issue in which the county government, in all its bureaucratic brilliance, has one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake.

Minks said...

Freemarket, sure, there is one great reason not to subsidize public libraries... simple really...

If the library does more harm then good! In this case, it would not be in the best interest of a tax base to support a library. You operate under the premise that libraries do more harm then good, I am of the opposite viewpoint. And, as you put it, you are "not the least bit persuaded by your argument". I explained why libraries are good for a community. You stated you don't want to pay for them. I explained how they help the poor. You stated you don't want to pay for them. You pretty much told me that whatever I say, your simple answer is going to be "I don't like em, because I don't want to pay for them". I guess I do not know where to go from here.

But to answer your question...

Some hypothetical examples of libraries I would not want publicly funded...

-A porn library
-A DVD only library

Some less hypothetical examples...

-A library in a hard to reach location
-A completely dysfunctional library
-An unused library

Of all your posts, this last one is the only one that really slapped me in the face. All the effort I have put forth to give you a scholarly debate regarding public libraries and you sum it all up with "I am not the least bit persuaded by your argument". I appreciated your point of view regarding the library in your given community, and even showed you an explanation of what is likely behind the drive to have your library in a community such as yours.

So, alas, I feel at this point nothing I say is appreciated or looked upon intellectually. Unless you say otherwise, I will not be back. You can continue your one-sided diatribe with your contingent of like minded people without me,, unopposed. Adieu.

Freemarket said...

OK, goodbye. But just so you know, the choice is not between having libraries vs. watching the resources of the library go up in smoke. A lot of other things can be done with the $30 million that it costs to build a library or the $15 million a year that Howard County spends to operate the library system. You have to look at the opportunity costs of the library- what else can be done with those resources. I think leaving the resources in the hands of those who earned/produced those resources is the best way to do good for the community.

Anonymous said...

I would SOOOO support my tax dollars funding an all-porn library! Where's the candidate to endorse THAT?

Bob O said...

Gotta admit, I'd go with the all-porn library. Brilliant idea!

Oh. Sorry. I't already been done and is called "the internet."

Libraries. I use them because they bring me an advantage as an indiviudal. The lower my income,the more advantage I get.

Oh. I guess that's freemarkets point. My tax dollars go to buy books and DVDs for people who can't affored them.

So, listening to WII-FM, whats in it for me?

Hopefully a better educated group of people who will wrest themselves up to a position where they can pay taxes and social security to support me.

Just joking.

Close the libraries now, and make those people go do their homework and talk really loud elsewhere. Use the 30 million to fund Healthy Howard.

Oh, just joking.

Close all of the libraries and see who screams. Then ask them for a payment for the service. See who ponies up.


BTW, good discussion, don't leave if you're opinion is dissed or disprove, it's part of the process. Don't run away scared.